Protect nutrients in beverages and processed foods

UNAM researchers have developed a nanocapsule that can protect and preserve nutrients in beverages and food supplements. In order to preserve the nutritional properties of juices and food supplements processed at high temperatures (pasteurized), researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have developed a system with nanotechnology that can protect the active compounds present in said food.

The system called “Nanostructured systems as thermal protectors of functional ingredients in food” has the huge advantage of maintaining the natural compounds of the food, ensuring that what is printed on the label is actually present during the product’s storage time until before its expiration date.

dr. María de la Luz Zambrano Zaragoza, academician in the field of research Nanotechnology from the Faculty of Advanced Studies (FES) Cuautitlán, explained that research began in 2007 with the study of beta-carotene. This pigment, present in plants, fruits and vegetables, has a high antioxidant effect, which protects cells from damage caused by solar radiation.

“The goal was to analyze whether by placing a protective layer on beta-carotene, it lost less nutritional properties during the pasteurization process; then we designed nanocapsules that measure less than 500 nanometers, we made a model similar to chewing gum that has a liquid center. In our case, the chewing gum is biodegradable polymer wall that protects the liquid center: beta-carotene,” said the academic responsible for the research.

These nanocapsules could be added to commercial drinks, since the consumption of this system, designed in the Laboratory of Transformation and New Technologies in Food FES Cuautitlán, has no contraindications, since it avoids interaction with our cellular system. Furthermore, since it is made of a biodegradable polymer, it turns into lactic acid and can be easily released.

“We tested it in orange, strawberry and watermelon juice at 70 and 90 degrees of temperature, we quantified the beta-carotene in the samples and confirmed that its degradation is minimal. We had a loss of only 30% compared to products that did not have encapsulation, which lost about 50 to 60%,” Zambrano said.

In addition to improving the retention of beta-carotene in thermal processes, the use of nanocapsules can be applied to other antioxidant agents in processes such as ultrapasteurization or sterilization.

This one investigation won second place in the award of the “Program for the Promotion of Patenting and Innovation” (PROFOPI 2014-2015), whose purpose is to promote the culture of industrial ownership at UNAM.

The scientific development is in the process of patenting. The advantage obtained by using a nanostructured system in food is that it is necessary to add less active substances during production, and during storage there is less degradation of the product due to the influence of environmental conditions.

Source: / With information from i

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