Casein

Basically a type of protein, casein is present in milk. It is used separately in a variety of food items in the form of a binding agent. From the technical point of view, casein belongs to a group known as phosphoproteins, which is an assortment of proteins that bind to anything enclosing phosphoric acid. Often, casein is also referred to as caseinogens, especially in European foods.

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Casein is a salt of the mineral calcium and, hence does not have any net ionic charge. Nevertheless, casein possesses various interesting properties making it a very useful ingredient in many foods as well as cooking. Several people are of the view that proteins are beneficial for our health provided they are consumed in their natural state. One argument in support of consuming natural proteins actually advocates taking raw food diet. When protein is denatured, it is deprived of its intrinsic nature owing to acid or high temperatures. In fact, application of heat or acid to proteins stops them from acting in their natural manner. Owing to its specific structure, casein is not vulnerable to denaturing.

There are two primary varieties of casein - while the first type is edible, the second one is technical. The edible variety of casein is extensively used in medicine as well as foods. They are valued for their nutritional as well as their binding properties. On the other hand, the technical variety of casein is employed in a wide assortment of products, which include cosmetics, paints and several kinds of adhesives. It is worth mentioning here that many people have allergic reactions to this particular protein. Such people may develop allergic reactions from both consumption of foods containing this protein as well as using different products like nail polish that enclose the technical variety of this protein.

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Despite the fact that vegans or people who are vulnerable to allergies usually stay away from animal products, they are not always conscious regarding the presence of casein in a wide range of food products available at stores as well as those cooked at home. It is important for such people to note that while many products may carry labels stating that they are lactose-free, they may still enclose casein for some reason or the other, especially for the protein's binding property. For instance, often soy cheese encloses proteins obtained from milk. Such proteins may also trigger allergies in people who consume the product assuming that it is dairy free.

Its health benefits notwithstanding, there have been reports of negative effects of using casein in some people, especially in those with autism. In most people, this protein is easily disintegrated in the digestive tract into simpler peptides called casomorphins and subsequently processed to form amino acids. However, there is evidence suggesting that the later process is not completed in people with autism. As a result, casomorphins are not broken down fully and this may cause a negative effect in the body - similar to those caused following intake of morphine or any other opiate. This is the main reason why a section of experts on autism strongly recommend people with this condition to stay away from products enclosing casein.

It is worth mentioning here that casein encloses elevated amount of proline residues that are not interactive. In addition, this protein also does not contain disulfide bridges. Consequently, the tertiary structure of casein is relatively little. As casein in somewhat hydrophobic, this protein does not dissolve in water well. In milk, casein is present in the form of suspension particles known as casein micelles. These micelles have very little similarity to surfactant-type micelles. This is primarily because the hydrophilic portions, which are spherical in form, are found only at the surface. Nevertheless, in a specific dissimilarity with the surfactant micelles, the inside of a casein micelle is extremely hydrated. Calcium ions as well as hydrophobic interactions bind caseins present in micelles. It is believed that any of the numerous molecular models may be responsible for the specific arrangement of casein present in the micelles.

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One theory suggests that the nucleus of micelles comprises numerous sub-micelles. The periphery comprises microvellosities of k-casein. According to another theory, the nucleus of this protein molecule comprises fibrils that interlink caseins. A latest theory suggests that a double link among caseins is responsible for the occurrence of gelling. However, all the three models suggest that micelles are colloidal particles that are formed when casein aggregates are swathed in k-casein molecules that are soluble.

Casein's isoelectric point is 4.6. In milk, casein possesses a negative charge as the pH of milk is 6.6. When purified, this protein does not dissolve in water. At the same time, casein also does not dissolve in salt solutions with a neutral pH. However, this protein is dispersible in salt solutions and watered down alkalis, for instance sodium acetate and sodium oxalate.

Health benefits

The protein casein offers a number of health benefits. It has been established that our body digests casein very slowly. When one consumes this variety of casein, this protein forms a gel inside his/ her stomach. Subsequently, amino acids are gradually released into the blood.

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It is known that our body takes up whey protein 45 minutes after we consume it. On the other hand, our body begins to absorb casein only four hours after we have consumed it. It has been found that casein provides our body with superior quality protein. In other words, our body absorbs an elevated percentage of this protein from the entire quantity of protein present in any foods containing it.

Findings of a study undertaken on people who regularly took meals rich in casein as well as whey protein showed that consumption of casein protein helped to thwart the muscle tissue from breaking down by roughly 35 per cent. On the other hand, it was observed that consumption of whey protein had no impact on putting off muscle breakdown.

Even fitness experts have generally asserted that taking meals rich in casein protein is highly beneficial for our health, especially in protecting as well as increasing the muscle mass. Several studies have established that people consuming this particular protein usually experience improved muscle mass compared to people who regularly consume whey protein.

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Moreover, several studies undertaken on exploring the health benefits of consuming casein have found that this variety of protein is effective in putting off incidents of colon cancer. Hence, it is strongly advised that one should enhance their intake of casein protein through their meals daily. In other words, consuming more casein protein has many different health benefits.

It has been found that similar to various additional diary sources, even casein protein has the potential to enhance the health of your teeth. Findings of many studies have demonstrated that this protein can also make the teeth enamel stronger, especially against erosion due to acids. At the same time, it can prevent tooth damage as it encloses calcium, hydroxide and phosphate form.

Casein is a particular variety of protein that comprises elevated amounts of the essential mineral calcium. It has been established that consuming this protein in sufficient amounts encourages loss of surplus fat from the body. Many people are of the view that diary product consumption may possibly help to prevent them from their goals of losing excessive body weight. Contrary to this notion, consumption of dairy products that enclose casein protein may be helpful in boosting fat loss. Findings of several studies undertaken on the health benefits of consuming casein protein have revealed that high intake of this protein is effective in promoting the fat loss process in our body.

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