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Filled hydrogel microspheres may be useful for encapsulating PUFAs.

Polyunsaturated lipids can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in our blood which, in turn, can lessen our risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain the body's cells.

Oils rich in polyunsaturated lipids contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin which many of us need more of.

Oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) also provide essential fats that your body needs but can't produce itself, such as the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. You must get essential fats through food. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important for many functions in the body.

Delivery systems are needed to encapsulate polyunsaturated lipids, protect them within food products and ensure their bioavailability within the gastrointestinal tract. Hydrogel particles assembled from food-grade biopolymers are particularly suitable for this use.

It appears that casein-rich hydrogel microspheres may protect polyunsaturated lipids in foods and beverages, but release them after they're ingested. University of Massachusetts scientists fabricated hydrogel microspheres by the electrostatic complexation of low methoxy pectin and caseinate by decreasing the solution pH from 7 to 4.5. After the hydrogel particles formed, the caseinate was enzymatically crosslinked, using transglutaminase, to improve the stability of the biopolymer matrix.

The effect of hydrogel particle encapsulation on the physical location, chemical stability and lipase digestibility of emulsified polyunsaturated lipids-fish oil-was investigated. The crosslinked hydrogel particles formed using this process were relatively small, negatively charged and evenly distributed within the system. Confocal microscopy confirmed that the fish oil droplets were trapped within casein-rich hydrogel microspheres.

Encapsulating the fish oil droplets improved their stability to lipid oxidation over conventional emulsions. The researchers attributed this stability to a high local concentration of antioxidant protein around the emulsified lipids. The rate and extent of digestion of the encapsulated lipid droplets in a simulated small intestine were similar to that of non-encapsulated droplets.

Further information. David Julian McClements, Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003; phone: 413-545-1019; fax: 413-545-1262; email:

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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Aug 1, 2016
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