Technion researchers have come up with a way to enrich soft drinks with health-enhancing vitamins and minerals and not cloud the beverage. The ground-breaking method – which uses nanocapsules that don’t dissolve well in water — can also be used by the pharmaceutical industry in the protection of medicines in the stomach and intestine.
Dr. Yoav Livney and his team in the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering used the Maillard reaction to create nanocapsules based on the protein-polysaccharide conjugates (PPC). This natural reaction was used in the past in the creation of emulsions and microcapsules for nutrients that do not dissolve in water, but the problem with the existing methods is that the capsules obtained were large, so that they clouded the liquid to which they were added.
“Our work is apparently the first to report the formation of PPC nanocapsules forming clear aqueous systems while encapsulating water-insoluble nutraceuticals,” Livney told BeverageDaily.com.
The researchers said the PPC conjugates are suitable for sport drinks, iced tea, mineral water, and soft drinks.
In 2007, Livney’s team came up with another breakthrough innovation – a method to deliver health-promoting nutrients using casein micelles, protein particles naturally present in milk, as carriers. That breakthrough paved the way to enrich foods with important nutraceuticals like vitamins and antioxidants, while protecting them from degradation and improving their bioavailability.
Fast forward to 2012 and the researchers followed the release of the nutrients from the nanocapsules under simulated digestion conditions. They discovered that the nanocapsules succeeded in keeping the nutrients trapped in them, and in protecting them under stomach conditions.
And that’s good news for the pharmaceutical industry as well.
“The encapsulation may protect acid-sensitive bioactives against the harsh stomach conditions, and only release them in the small intestine,” Livney told BeverageDaily.com.
In the future, Dr. Livney plans to “investigate the encapsulation by this method of other bio-active components, such as anti-cancer medicines.”
Another team headed by Dr. Livney is currently developing the next generation of polysaccharide-protein conjugate-based nanocapsules, which are aimed at target-oriented delivery of medicines in the body, marking the location of cancerous tumors and destroying them.