Consumption of dairy products causes diﬃculties for a signiﬁcant part of the society because of their allergen, lactose, and cholesterol content and/or these products are not aﬀordable for some due to their price (Krupa et al., 2011). Furthermore, in the last few decades, the perception of milk’s and dairy products’ nutritional beneﬁts declined as milkfat consumption was associated with atherosclerosis and heart diseases (Ebrınuer et al., 2008).
Between the 1940s and 1990s, dietary cholesterol (and also saturated fatty acid intake) was considered as one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases, which lead to the excessive promotion of lipid-lowering dietary recommendations (McNamara, 2014). Nutritionists argue that instead of avoiding cholesterol, we should focus on maintaining the balance of absorbed and synthesised amounts, also, several studies have shown that dietary cholesterol does not signiﬁcantly increase the risk of heart conditions in case of healthy individuals (Fernandez, 2012; McNamara, 2014). A minor part of the population indeed needs to reduce its intake, but the majority will unnecessarily deprive themselves of a high- quality protein source such dairy products (Fernandez, 2012).
A recent study revealed that the two most important attributes of dairy products for consumers are low fat content and being cholesterol-free (Pınto et al., 2016), which suggest that the public is still extremely interested by fats used in these commodities.
Reduction of milkfat content, modiﬁcation of milk’s and dairy products’ fat composition, or replacement by other fats are common practices in the industry. Products in which milkfat is partially or wholly substituted by vegetable fats are deﬁned as dairy analogues (FAO/WHO Food Standards, 2019). Ingredients of plant origin used in these products are cheaper; therefore, the main reason for dairy analogue production is cost-eﬀectiveness.
Traditional sour cream is made from only two ingredients, cream and bacterial cultures: the acidiﬁcation is done by lactic acid bacteria that also provide the distinctive taste and texture of sour cream (Szakály, 2001). One type of sour cream analogues is usually made from skimmed milk mixed with vegetable fat and acidiﬁed by the bacterial culture, which is the most common practice among Hungarian manufacturers. In other countries, beside milk- derived components, producers usually add water and food additives. There are also sour cream analogues that are made exclusively from vegetable sources (Haısman, 2011; Noznıck et al. 2015).
Substitution of highly valuable milkfat with vegetable fats aﬀects not only the price of the product, but technological aspects should be considered, too. Milkfat has a complex fatty acid composition, which eventuate a nearly inimitable melting proﬁle; however, producers handle suitable melting characteristics as a primary selection criterion in regard of vegetable fats and use most frequently palm fat or coconut oil in dairy analogues (Haısman, 2011).
Similarly to milkfat (and generally dairy products), palm fat and other so-called tropical oils were linked to the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the 1980s, which triggered campaigns that highlighted saturated fat (SAFA) content and demanded all palm fat to be removed from food products (McNamara, 2010). The need for an appropriately stable fat could only met by partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils, which in turn contained trans fatty acids. Industrially produced trans fatty acids were proved to greatly contribute to the emergence of CHD, and several countries limited its intake, in parallel, public awareness of the risk became high (McNamara, 2010; Dayczynskı & Lorkoyskı, 2016).
In the case of trans fats, it should be noted that milkfat naturally contains trans fatty acids produced by microbes in the animal’s rumen. While there are several studies that conﬁrm the negative health eﬀects of industrial trans fats (iTFA), the harmfulness of ruminant trans fatty acids (rTFA) is still disputed. Nevertheless, if rTFAs had been able to cause the same changes in human serum lipids, possibly their dietary intake would not exceed a level that is considered to be concerning (Dayczynskı & Lorkoyskı, 2016).
As a conclusion of the above, a lot of questions are raised when discussing which is better: dairy products that naturally contain milkfat or the analogues with substitute palm fat. The results of this comparison will give a clearer picture about advantages and disadvantages of dairy analogues.
The authors would like to thank the contribution of the NFCSO, especially the Food Chain Safety Laboratory Directorate concerning laboratory investigations, and the methodological guidance of the colleagues of the Doctoral School of Food Sciences, Szent István University.
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