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Process Developed for More Nutritional Supplement Stability

Srinivas Janaswam (Purdue University)

Srinivas Janaswam (Purdue University)

A Purdue University food scientist in West Lafayette, Indiana has develop a method for enveloping nutritional supplements to protect them from degradation. The process devised by Purdue professor Srinivas Janaswamy and former student Susanne Youngren, now at University of Hawaii in Hilo, appeared online earlier this month in the journal Food & Function (paid subscription required).

Many nutritional supplements, called nutraceuticals, that are added to foods are not structurally stable, making them subject to degradation and reduced effectiveness from heat, light, oxygen, and other external factors. Janaswamy (pictured left) attributes this instability to the lack of structure to protect food supplements such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and resveratrol.

Janaswamy and Youngren used iota-carrageenan, a long-chain carbohydrate, to encapsulate curcumin, a key ingredient in the spice turmeric, often found in curry, which is considered to be effective against stomach upset and potentially other conditions. Iota-carrageenan, when stretched, forms crystalline fibers a stable double-helical structure.

That iota-carrageenan structure includes small pockets between the helices that contain water molecules. The researchers replaced these water pockets with curcumin, which was then protected by the sturdy iota-carrageenan structure.

The researchers found the iota-carrageenan network maintains a stable organization after encasing the curcumin molecules, protects them from melting, and then releases the molecules in a sustained manner. Janaswamy foresees that the encapsulated fibers could then be chopped into small particles that would give diners a way of adding supplements like resveratrol or curcumin to their food in the same way as they might add salt or pepper.

There are still some barriers to adoption, however. Janaswamy says the release of the encased compounds occurs in about 30 minutes, which is not a long enough period for the supplements to reach the intestines, where release would be more beneficial; about three hours are needed. Janaswamy is also working to increase the amount of nutraceutical that can be loaded into the fibers.

Read more: Process Developed for Delivering Appetite Control Hormone

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