Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded

Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science

Committee Chair(s)

Marie K. Walsh


Marie K. Walsh


Brian A. Nummer


Silvana Martini


Jon Y. Takemoto


Cheing-Wei Tom Chang


Sugar esters, substances made from bonding fatty acid tails to a sugar head, can play a number of key roles in food systems from antimicrobial agents to emulsifiers. These unique and very useful properties result from their water-loving and water-avoiding ends. Lactose, a sugar found in milk, based esters are important, as they are environmentally friendly and inexpensive, however, they are not very well understood. I created four different types of lactose esters: lactose monooctanoate (LMO), lactose monodecanoate (LMD), lactose monolaurate (LML) and lactose monomyristate (LMM), and then compared them to each other to see which would be the best emulsifier and which would be the best antimicrobial.

My previous studies showed that LML was inhibitory against Listeria monocytogenes a common food pathogen. This encouraged us to evaluated the microbial inhibitory (bacterial killing) properties of LMO, LMD, LMM, along with LML, specifically, the influence of the fatty acid chain length in each ester and how that influenced my results. The esters, in order of highest microbial inhibitory properties, were LML, LMD, LMM followed by LMO. LML was inhibitory against all the Gram-positive bacteria tested including Bacillus cereus, Mycobacterium KMS, Streptococcus suis, L. monocytogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, and Streptococcus mutans but not Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli O157:H7).

Sugar esters are a large class of emulsifiers used in the food industry, and so my second research objective was to evaluate the influence of the fatty acid chain length on the emulsification properties of LMO, LMD, LML and LMM and compare them to each other and controls (Tween-20 and Ryoto L-1695) in a standard oil-in-water (O/W) emulsion. I did this by observing how long my emulsions lasted after mixing before they would start to separate. I also looked at the actual size of the oil drops in each of my emulsions, the smaller the oil drops remained, the better they stay in the emulsion and thus the more stable the emulsion. My results showed that the best emulsifier was LML, followed by LMD, LMM, and LMO, respectively. Therefore, my lactose esters contained both microbial inhibitory and emulsification activities.

L. monocytogenes is an infamous food pathogen and one of the largest sources of food-borne illness from dairy foods in the United States. Addition of LMD and LML previously were shown to have microbial inhibitory effects in my lab so I wanted to see how well they would work in a food: milk. In general, bacterial deaths in the LMD milk samples were great and many times greater than the LML samples. However, both were greatly affected by milk fat content and how warm each of the samples were kept. LMD may play a useful role in increasing the safety of some foods.