Physical characterization of fatty acid supplements with varying enrichments of palmitic and stearic acid by differential scanning calorimetry

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Saturated fatty acid supplements commonly fed to dairy cows differ in their fatty acid (FA) profile. Some supplements with very high enrichments of palmitic acid (PA) or stearic acid (SA) have been reported to have low total-tract digestibility. Saturated FA have the potential to form crystalline structures at high purity that may affect digestibility. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a thermal technique commonly used in materials science to measure the change in heat flow as energy is absorbed or released from a sample during heating, and it was used to characterize a series of experimental and commercial fat supplements. Our hypothesis was that products with very high enrichment of either PA or SA would differ in thermal characteristics compared with those that include moderate levels of a second FA because of the formation of secondary crystalline structures, which may contribute to decreased digestibility. First, replicated runs demonstrated low variation in melting temperature (MT) and enthalpy (coefficient of variation <4%). The effect of physical form was evaluated by comparing an initial thermal cycle to a second, successive thermal cycle after samples had resolidified in the test pan. Melting temperature was slightly increased by 1.3°C by the second cycle compared with the first, but there was no change in enthalpy. Next, supplements with 98% SA, 98% PA, and an SA/PA (44%/55%) blend with undetectable levels of unsaturated FA were compared. Melting temperature of the SA/PA mixture was 61.2°C and similar to the expected MT of PA (62.9°C). However, the MT of the high-purity SA and PA were increased to 73.7°C and 67.8°C, respectively, and enthalpy increased by 12.5% compared with the SA/PA blend. An FA stock highly enriched in SA (>98%) had the highest MT, and one moderately enriched in PA (∼85%) that contained 10.1% unsaturated FA had the lowest enthalpy value of all FA supplements and experimental stocks that were characterized. Differential scanning calorimetry may be useful to screen and design supplements with improved physical properties that may be associated with digestibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8967-8975
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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