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Editorial

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Edible delivery systems for nutraceuticals:


designing functional foods for improved health
The development of nutraceutical delivery systems within the food industry faces a number of technical, legal and commercial
challenges that must be overcome before they can be successfully used to prevent chronic diseases.
Keywords: delivery systems n digestion n emulsions n encapsulation n nanoemulsions n nutraceuticals n release n structural design

There is growing interest in diet-based prevention


of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease,
hypertension, diabetes, obesity, inflammation and
cancer [14] . Research in this area is motivated
by the principle that preventing a disease is
more effective than curing a disease. Academic,
government and industrial researchers have,
therefore, been working to identify, isolate
and purify health-promoting components
found in natural edible materials, such as
microorganisms, plants and animals. These
bioactive components (nutraceuticals) are
then being used as functional ingredients to
fortify food and beverage products. Many of
the nutraceuticals reported to have biological
activity are highly hydrophobic molecules that
cannot be incorporated into foods by simple
mixing; for example, polyunsaturated lipids,
conjugated linoleic acid, oil-soluble vitamins,
carotenoids, phytosterols and f lavonoids.
Instead, these hydrophobic nutraceuticals must
be encapsulated within edible delivery systems
specifically designed so they can be incorporated
into commercial products. The food industry is
adopting many of the technologies developed
within the pharmaceutical industry to fabricate
delivery systems for hydrophobic drugs. However,
there are a number of unique constraints that the
food industry must consider when developing
these delivery systems [1] . First, they must be
fabricated entirely from food-grade ingredients
using economical manufacturing processes.
Second, they must be designed to withstand the
harsh environmental conditions foods experience
during their manufacture, storage, transport and
utilization, such as thermal processing, freezing,
dehydration and mechanical stresses. Third, they
should not adversely impact the desirable quality
attributes of the foods they are incorporated
into, such as appearance, texture, flavor and
mouthfeel. Fourth, they should be designed to
10.4155/TDE.12.56 2012 Future Science Ltd

maintain or enhance the bioavailability of the


nutraceutical. Finally, they may be designed
to control the release of the nutraceutical at a
specific location within the GI tract; for example,
mouth, stomach, small intestine or colon. These
challenges have stimulated the development of
a variety of new approaches to fabricate edible
delivery systems. Some of these approaches may
be suitable for widespread adoption by the food
industry, whereas others may be impractical due
to economic or scale-up problems.
Functional food-product constraints
In the pharmaceutical industry, hydrophobic
drugs are typically delivered orally using tablets,
capsules or fluids [4] . In the food industry, many
different food and beverage products may
serve as vehicles for nutraceutical delivery; for
example, beverages, spreads, yogurts, sauces,
dressings, desserts, cheeses, confectionary,
breads and crackers. These products vary
greatly in their compositions (e.g., fat, protein,
carbohydrate, mineral and water contents),
structures (e.g., homogeneous or heterogeneous),
physicochemical properties (e.g., optical
properties, rheology and stability) and sensory
attributes (e.g., appearance, mouthfeel and
flavor). They may be as different as fortified
waters (transparent homogeneous liquids),
yogurts (opaque heterogeneous semi-solids)
and crackers (opaque heterogeneous solids). A
nutraceutical delivery system must, therefore, be
specifically designed so that it does not adversely
affect the desirable properties of the particular
food product in which it is incorporated.
For example, the fortification of waters with
hydrophobic nutraceutical components requires
the utilization of colloidal delivery systems
(e.g., nanoemulsions or microemulsions) that
contain very fine particles that do not scatter
light strongly.
Therapeutic Delivery (2012) 3(7), 801803

David Julian McClements


Department of Food Science,
University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, MA 01003, USA
Tel.: +1 413 545 1019
E-mail: mcclements@
foodsci.umass.edu

ISSN 2041-5990

801

Editorial | McClements
Structural design of edible delivery
systems
Edible systems suitable for oral delivery of
hydrophobic nutraceuticals must be fabricated
entirely from food-grade ingredients, such as
proteins, polysaccharides, lipids and minerals.
These building blocks can be assembled into a
variety of structures suitable for nutraceutical
encapsulation. Some of the most promising edible
delivery systems designed to meet the challenges
faced by the food industry are highlighted in this
section. More detailed information about these
delivery systems is given in a number of recent
reviews [2,5,6] . For the sake of clarity, the focus
will be on colloidal delivery systems suitable for
incorporation into aqueous-based food products.
Liposomes

Liposomes consist of one or more lipid bilayers assembled into a spheroid structure [7] .
They are typically fabricated using food-grade
phospholipids isolated from soy, dairy or egg
sources. Hydrophobic nutraceutical components
are incorporated within the non-polar regions
formed by the phospholipid tails in the bilayer
structures, while hydrophilic components may
be incorporated within the interior aqueous core.

Edible systems suitable for oral delivery of


hydrophobic nutraceuticals must be fabricated
entirely from food-grade ingredients, such as
proteins, polysaccharides, lipids and minerals.
Microemulsions

Oil-in-water microemulsions consist of very small


lipid particles (d < 50 nm) dispersed within an
aqueous medium [8] . Microemulsions are thermodynamically stable colloidal dispersions usually
formed from surfactant, oil and water (and sometimes a co-surfactant/co-solvent). The particles
are so small that they do not scatter light strongly
and are, therefore, suitable for incorporation into
optically transparent food and beverage products.
A disadvantage of this system is that a relatively
high surfactant-to-oil ratio is required, and many
of the surfactants used are not label friendly.
Emulsions

& nanoemulsions
Oil-in-water emulsions and nanoemulsions contain surfactant-coated lipid droplets dispersed
within an aqueous medium. In contrast with
microemulsions, they are thermodynamically
unstable colloidal dispersions [9] . The main difference between emulsions (d > 100 nm) and
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Therapeutic Delivery (2012) 3(7)

nanoemulsions (d < 100 nm) is the particle size,


which affects their functional performance [5] .
The smaller droplet size in nanoemulsions means
they have a higher optical clarity and physical stability than emulsions, and possibly a higher bioavailability. The main disadvantage of emulsions
and nanoemulsions is that they have a tendency
to breakdown over time and, therefore, must be
carefully designed.
Solid

lipid nanoparticles
Solid lipid nanoparticle (SLN) suspensions are
similar to emulsions or nanoemulsions since they
contain surfactant-coated lipid droplets dispersed
within an aqueous medium [10] . However, the
lipid phase in SLN is either fully or partially solidified, which may be useful for protecting chemically labile ingredients from chemical degradation
during storage.
Multilayer

emulsions
The functional performance of colloidal dispersions can often be extended by forming nano
laminated coatings around the particles [11] . This
is usually carried out using a layer-by-layer electrostatic deposition method; for example, a core
particle can be coated by depositing successive layers of cationic and anionic polymers. This method
has been used to control the digestion and release
of lipophilic components under GI conditions [11] .
Multiple emulsions
Water-in-oil-in-water (w1/o/w2) emulsions consist of small water droplets contained within
larger oil droplets dispersed within an aqueous
medium [12] . Multiple emulsions can be used to
encapsulate hydrophilic components within the
inner water phase (w1), which may be useful if
a system contains two hydrophilic components
that would normally adversely interact with each
other, or for taste masking of bitter bioactive
components.

...nutraceuticals are typically consumed at


relatively low levels as part of a complex diet
over extended periods of time and, therefore, it
is often difficult to establish a link between the
amount of nutraceutical consumed and a
particular disease.
Biopolymer

particles
This kind of delivery system consists of
nutraceutical components trapped within a
biopolymer particle that is dispersed within an
future science group

Edible delivery systems for nutraceuticals: designing functional foods for improved health
aqueous medium [13] . Biopolymer particles can
be fabricated from proteins and polysaccharides
using a variety of methods, including extrusion,
emulsion-templating, coacervation, anti-solvent
and thermodynamic incompatibility approaches.
The potential of many of these delivery
systems for encapsulating, protecting and
releasing hydrophobic nutraceuticals has been
demonstrated in laboratory studies, but not
in real commercial applications. Some of the
methods currently used to fabricate delivery
systems are unlikely to be economically feasible
for large-scale production of edible delivery
systems. Many previous studies have not
demonstrated that the delivery systems produced
can be successfully incorporated into real
food products without adversely altering their
desirable properties, nor have they demonstrated
that the bioavailability of a nutraceutical is
maintained after encapsulation.
Future challenges for functional foods
The development of nutraceutical delivery
systems within the food industry faces a number
of technical, legal and commercial challenges
that must be overcome before they can be
successfully used to prevent chronic diseases.
A major challenge for the food industry is
proving the efficacy of specific nutraceutical
components at inhibiting the progression of
particular diseases. Pharmaceutical agents
can be administered in well-defined doses at
specific times, which enable researchers to carry
out studies to establish their efficacy against
specific disease symptoms or biomarkers. In
contrast, nutraceuticals are typically consumed
at relatively low levels as part of a complex diet
References
1

McClements DJ, Decker EA, Park Y, Weiss J.


Structural design principles for delivery of
bioactive components in nutraceuticals and
functional foods. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. 49(6),
577606 (2009).
McClements DJ, Li Y. Structured emulsionbased delivery systems: controlling the
digestion and release of lipophilic food
components. Adv. Colloid Interfac. 159(2),
213228 (2010).

Financial & competing interests disclosure


The author has no relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript. This includes employment,
consultancies, honoraria, stock ownership or options, expert
te stimony, grants or patents received or pending, or
royalties.
No writing assistance was utilized in the production of
this manuscript.
McClements DJ. Edible nanoemulsions:
fabrication, properties, and functional
performance. Soft Matter 7(6), 22972316 (2011).

McClements DJ. Emulsion design to improve


the delivery of functional lipophilic
components. Ann. Rev. Food Sci. Technol. 1,
241269 (2010).

Velikov KP, Pelan E. Colloidal delivery


systems for micronutrients and nutraceuticals.
Soft Matter 4(10), 19641980 (2008).

Espin JC, Garcia-Conesa MT, TomasBarberan FA. Nutraceuticals: facts and fiction.
Phytochemistry 68(2224), 29863008
(2007).

future science group

over extended periods of time and, therefore,


it is often difficult to establish a link between
the amount of nutraceutical consumed and a
particular disease. As a consequence, government
regulators may not allow food manufacturers to
make specific health claims about a functional
food product in their advertising or labeling.
In the absence of this kind of competitive
advantage, food companies may be reluctant
to spend research funds on developing and
testing the biological activity of nutraceuticals.
Another unique challenge that the food industry
faces is in controlling the dose and timing
that a nutraceutical component is consumed.
Pharmaceutical agents are usually taken in
well-defined doses at specific times (e.g.,50mg
three-times a day), whereas nutraceutical agents
may be incorporated into various kinds of
foods that are consumed in different amounts
by different individuals. On the other hand,
a potential advantage of functional foods as
delivery systems for bioactive agents is greater
compliance (consuming foods is more desirable
and satisfying than taking tablets) and the
possibility of designing a food matrix that
enhances bioavailability.

| Editorial

Mozafari MR, Johnson C, Hatziantoniou S,


Demetzos C. Nanoliposomes and their
applications in food nanotechnology.
J.Liposome Res. 18(4), 309327 (2008).
Flanagan J, Singh H. Microemulsions:
apotential delivery system for bioactives in food.
Crit. Rev. Food Sci. 46(3), 221237 (2006).
McClements DJ. Nanoemulsions versus
microemulsions: clarification of differences,
similarities and terminology. Soft Matter 8(6),
17191729 (2012).

www.future-science.com

10

Weiss J, Decker EA, McClements DJ,


Kristbergsson K, Helgason T, Awad T. Solid
lipid nanoparticles as delivery systems for
bioactive food components. Food Biophysics
3(2), 146154 (2008).

11

McClements DJ. Design of nano-laminated


coatings to control bioavailability of lipophilic
food components. J. Food Sci. 75(1),
R30R42 (2010).

12 Khan AY, Talegaonkar S, Iqbal Z, Ahmed FJ,

Khar RK. Multiple emulsions: an overview.


Curr. Drug Deliv. 3(4), 429443 (2006).
13 Matalanis A, Jones OG, Mcclements DJ.

Structured biopolymer-based delivery systems


for encapsulation, protection, and release of
lipophilic compounds. Food Hydrocolloid.
25(8), 18651880 (2011).

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