Digestion of milkfat releases some long-chain (18-carbon) fatty acids (FAs) that can provide health benefits to the consumer, yet because they are found in small amounts and can be difficult to identify, there is limited information on the effects that common fluid milk processing may have on the digestibility of these FAs. This study provides FA profiles for raw and combinations of homogenized and/or heat-treated (high and ultra-high temperature pasteurization) milk, before and after in vitro digestion, in order to determine the effects of processing on the digestibility of these healthy fatty acids. Use of a highly sensitive separation column resulted in improved FA profiles that showed that, when milk was subjected to both pasteurization and homogenization, the release of the 18-carbon FAs, oleic acid, linoleic acid (an omega-6 FA), rumenic acid (a conjugated linoleic acid, CLA), and linolenic acid (an omega-3 FA) tended to be higher than with either pasteurization or homogenization, or with no treatment. Milk is noted for containing the omega-3 FAs and CLAs, which are associated with positive health benefits. Determining how processing factors may impact the components in milk will aid in understanding the release of healthy FAs when milk and dairy foods are consumed.
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