Looking to drug delivery systems may help functional food formulation: Unilever

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Gaining a better understanding of the colloidal systems used for drug delivery mechanisms may help food scientists to develop more efficient food colloids systems, according to Unilever scientists.

The review, published in LWT - Food Science and Technology​, suggests that the modern food industry faces “a stiff challenge”​ in devising new techniques to deliver functional ingredients without compromising the structural or sensory characteristics of food products.

However, the Unilever scientists said that the field of colloidal delivery systems, which has a strong existence in the pharmaceutical arena, “can find a great deal of application in foods especially with the growing demand of functional foods.”

Dr Ashok Patel, from Unilever R&D, The Netherlands and his co-authors added that through multi-disciplinary research, knowledge and expertise can be translated from the field of drug research into the development of better food systems.

“The use of colloidal delivery systems is relatively well established in the area of (oral) drug delivery with some pioneering work on applications of lipid and polymeric colloidal particles, liposomes, micelles and microemulsions for efficient delivery of drug molecules … Hence, there’s a good scope for extending this understanding to the development of colloidal delivery systems in foods,”​ said the reviewers.

However the researchers said that the use of colloidal systems to deliver ingredients in foods “is still an infant frontier,”​ adding that the successful application in complex food systems “will require a collaborative effort from colloid scientists, food technologists, formulation scientists and biologists.”

Functional formulation

Increased interest in the links between diet and health among the consumers has led to the emergence of a specialised category of food products, commonly known as functional foods.

These products are often food products fortified with micronutrients (such as vitamins and minerals), functional ingredients from natural sources (phytochemicals), or relatively novel combination of food ingredients, such as fibre added to soft drinks, fish oil added to bread, or human gut bacterial cultures added to dairy foods.

However, the Unilever scientists explained that the delivery of functional ingredients in this way can be “rather challenging.”

Problems associated with adding functional ingredients to food products include the formation of ‘off tastes’, decreased product stability, changes in product appearance, and alterations in ingredients bioaccessibility.

“It has been currently over-emphasized that functional ingredients need to be delivered in a specific and sophisticated manner in order to get optimal physiological benefits … At the same time, it is equally important that in a quest for better in-body delivery, the product attributes doesn’t get affected too much,”​ they wrote.

“Consequently, food industries have been fuelling in a lot of research to identify ways of formulating functional ingredients without compromising the overall product functionality,”​ said the researchers.

Dr. Patel and his colleagues said the use of a colloidal delivery system may address many of the delivery problems associated with the incorporation of functional ingredients, “while preserving desired product functionalities such as appearance, taste, texture and stability.”

Review details

In colloidal form, ingredients retain their insoluble characteristic in the product format so there are fewer issues with taste or chemical reactivity but once ingested, they get solubilised in in-vivo conditions leading to a good bioaccessibility,”​ explained Patel and his colleagues.

They added that colloidal delivery systems have been providing alternative formulation approaches for problematic drug candidates in the pharmaceutical arena for decades.

“In oral drug delivery, various colloidal delivery systems have been employed to enhance the bioaccessibility of drugs by influencing the two main properties (i.e. solubility and permeability) of compounds which are directly linked to the two rate-limiting steps of dissolution and absorption,”​ wrote the Unilever scientists.

“The well established area of colloidal drug delivery systems can act as a source of information for development of the field of colloidal delivery systems in foods,”​ they added.

Source: LWT - Food Science and Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2011.04.005
“Colloidal delivery systems in foods: A general comparison with oral drug delivery”
Authors: A.R. Patel, K.P. Velikov

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