Researchers at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) developed a nanostructured system capable of protecting the active compounds of juices and nutritional supplements from high temperatures during the pasteurization process, in order to retain their nutritional properties.
Maria de la Luz Zambrano Zaragoza, researcher at the Nanotechnology area, explained that the benefits of the development called "Nanostructured systems as thermal protectors of functional ingredients in foods" are maintaining the natural compounds, "and what you read on the label is really present during the storage time of the product before its expiration date."
The research began in 2007 with the study of beta-carotene, a pigment found in plants, fruits and vegetables that can be used as an antioxidant.
"The aim was to analyze if by placing a protective layer surrounding the beta-carotene, it lost less nutritional properties during pasteurization; so we designed nanocapsules measuring less than 500 nanometers, and made a gum-like model that has a liquid center. In our case the gum wall is a biodegradable polymer that protects the liquid center: beta carotene," said the responsible for the academic research.
These nanocapsules would be added to the commercial drink. The consumption of the system designed in the Laboratory of Transformation and Emerging Technologies in Food has no contraindications, because it prevents interaction with our cellular system. Besides being composed of a biodegradable polymer, it becomes a lactic acid and can easily be discarded.
"We tested it in orange, strawberry and watermelon juice at 70 and 90 degree Celsius, then we quantified the beta-carotene in the samples and found that degradation is minimal, we had a loss of only 30 percent compared to the traditional loss of about 50 to 60 percent," said the university academic.
In addition to improving retention of betacarotene in thermal processes, the use of nanocapsules can be applied to other antioxidants in processes such as sterilization or UHT.
The research received the second place in the award of the "Programme for the Promotion of Patenting and Innovation" (PROFOPI 2014-2015) in Mexico, which aims to promote the culture of industrial property in the university.
This scientific development is in the process of patenting. The benefit obtained by using the nanostructured food system is less addition of active substances usually required during production, so the storage means less product degradation by the effect of environmental conditions.
National University of Mexico