Food Factoids: Nanoparticles, Vitamin B-12

“Nanovehicles” Add Nutrients to Foods

There could be a new twist to your daily vitamin routine in the near future, as current research has found a way to deliver vitamin nutrition directly through food.

Hebrew University researchers have developed “nanovehicles” that can add nutraceuticals such as lycopene (which can lower the risk of contracting prostrate or breast cancer), phytosterol (which helps prevent the accumulation of cholesterol), and lutein (which retards cataract growth) to our foods.

Prior to this nanotechnology development, adding these nutritional and medicinal components to food has been problematic because most bioactive phytochemicals (chemical components derived from plants) are not water soluble.  As a result, their absorption via the digestive system is limited, as the beneficial nutrients simply pass through our bodies.

The nanovehicles developed by Hebrew University researchers are made out of water, oil, an emulsifier and sometimes alcohol as a co-solvent. The microemulsions (also referred to as nanoemulsions) are more stable than regular emulsions and can absorb higher amounts of the active nutrients from plant sources.   Microemulsion nanodroplets bind with nutraceutical nanoparticles, enabling the nanodroplets to carry the nutraceutical nanoparticles through membranes for release, once they have reached their destination. Easily diluted, these microemulsions can also be made into powders. As a result, they can be used as liquid or powder food additives or taken on their own. Imagine the convenience of getting your vitamins from unlikely food sources – like bread with high amounts of lutein! Source: (www.israel21c.com)

Nanotechnology Aids in Food Packaging

With so many brands to choose from, many of us put more thought into that foods we buy rather than the materials compose their packaging. But maybe we should consider food packaging more closely before making a purchase!

Recent nanotechnology advances may allow manufacturers to create packaging that increases the shelf life of food. Currently, nanomaterials are being developed with enhanced mechanical and thermal properties. This means they’re equipped to better protect foods from exterior mechanical, thermal, chemical and microbiological effects.

Additionally, the food-packaging industry is looking to nanotechnology for use in modifying the permeation behavior of foils, increasing barrier properties, improving mechanical and heat-resistance properties, developing active antimicrobic and antifungal surfaces, and sensing and signaling microbiological and biochemical changes.

Prominent products in the food industry’s R&D pipeline include new polymer nanocomposites for packaging and wrapping. Foils and other wrappings based on nanocomposites offer adjustable gas permeability in food packaging which can help to better protect food.  Source: (www.foodnavigator.com).

Remove Harmful Food Bacteria with Magnetic Nanoparticles

Ohio researchers recently developed magnetic nanoparticles that may be able to detect and eliminate harmful, even deadly, food bacteria. The researchers developed a “magnetic glyco-nanoparticle (MGNP),” a compound combining magnetic nanoparticles and sugars. Bacteria use carbohydrates, such as sugars, to attach to their host cells to facilitate infection. The scientists exposed a group of E. coli bacteria to the sugar-coated nano-magnets to mark the microbes for easy identification and removal by a magnetic device. The study represents “the first time that magnetic nanoparticles have been used to detect, quantify, and differentiate E. coli cells,” the researchers state.  (As reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (“Magnetic Glyco-nanoparticles: A Unique Tool for Rapid Pathogen Detection, Decontamination, and Strain Differentiation”).   Source:  (www.sciencedaily.com)

Vitamin B-12 is Only a Spray Away!

Nanotechnology can make taking certain vitamins easier and more efficient than ever before.  Many companies now offer vitamin B-12 sprays that leverage nano-sized particles.  When sprayed into the mouth, the cheek absorbs small droplets of vitamin B-12 through its mucous membranes and delivers them into the circulatory system.  As a result, much higher levels of the vitamin reach targeted areas when compared to traditional methods such as pills, tablets, capsules and liquids. Additionally, the nano-droplets aim to release the vitamin within a steady, time-controlled manner to ensure longer-term benefit from each single dose. Sources:  (www.helium.com) and (www.nanotechbuzz.com)