Fatty Acids in Blue Cheeses

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Probably because it is so palatable or because of its creamy and spreadable texture, most consumers believe that Gorgonzola DOP is a particularly fat cheese. This is simply not true!

Indeed, total fat, saturated fatty acids and cholesterol levels in Gorgonzola DOP are no different from those found in some of the most popular dairy and cheese products. A comparison of composition values shows that the total fat levels found in Gorgonzola DOP are perfectly in line with those found in other cheeses that are perceived by consumers as healthier. The reasons behind this are obvious if one thinks that Gorgonzola is made from whole milk – not skimmed – and therefore the fat content in the finished product cannot be very different from that found in other cheeses made from whole milk with similar moisture levels.

In moulded cheeses, such as Gorgonzola DOP, the lipolysis induced by the development of the fungal mycelium – the green mould (Penicillium roqueforti) – causes the release of different fatty acids. The level of free fatty acids grows based on the activity of the fungal mycelium and is normally higher in piquant Gorgonzola DOP.

The main free fatty acids found in Gorgonzola DOP are: lauric (dodecanoic) acid, myristic (tetradecanoic) acid, palmitic (hexadecanoic) acid, stearic (octadecanoic) acid and oleic (octadecenoic) acid.

This particular lipolytic activity causes a higher concentration of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Medium- and long-chain fatty acids have long been known for their inhibitory action on Gram+ bacterial spores and vegetative cells. The localised concentrations of these fatty acids found in the veins of Gorgonzola DOP can therefore play an important inhibitory action on undesired contaminant microorganisms. Consequently, as well as contributing to the characteristic flavour of this product, these molecules contribute to increasing its shelf life.

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