Ginseng-Enriched Milk

July 26, 2012

Scientists have developed a milk product enriched with American ginseng, and it appears relatively well accepted by consumers.

Scientists have developed a milk product enriched with American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.), and it appears relatively well accepted by consumers.

Ginseng ingredients are often touted for potential brain support, but the extreme bitterness of ginseng has, for the most part, limited the ingredient’s use to dietary supplements. Another challenge to developing functional ginseng foods is ginseng’s sensitivity to high processing temperatures, which can eliminate the beneficial components of ginseng. But collaboration between Naturex Inc. (South Hackensack, NJ) and the Instituto de Agroquimica y Tecnologia de Alimentos (IATA; Valencia, Spain) has yielded low-lactose milk that overcomes some bitterness and retains healthful compounds after processing.

“Our goal was to develop low-lactose milk that could be consumed by the elderly to improve cognitive function,” said lead researcher S. Fiszman, PhD from IATA. “Consumers who were interested in the health benefits of ginseng rated our product quite highly.”

One hundred consumers were asked to sample “highly digestible semi-skimmed milk” and “highly digestible semi-skinned milk enriched with ginseng extract that would improve cognitive function”.

To overcome ginseng bitterness, the research team sweetened milk with vanilla extract and the artificial sweetener sucralose. Results of a consumer taste test with 100 participants found that bitterness was still perceived in the ginseng milk, but bitterness was significantly reduced when the milk was flavored. The milk also underwent ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing to prolong shelf life. Sufficient levels of ginseng still remained present and perceived sweetness with ginseng milk was only slightly lower than the control milk after processing.

A brown color, attributed to ginseng, was clearly perceived in the final ginseng milk product.

One-third of the consumers expressed interest in the ginseng milk.

“Drinking 150 to 300 mL of this ginseng-enriched milk would provide the amount indicated to be effective for improving cognitive functions,” said Fiszman. “Combined with the low levels of lactose, this makes the drink an appropriate functional beverage for the elderly…The addition of more congruent flavors such as chocolate, citrus, or coffee, could be effective in masking non-milk-related sensory attributes.”