banner
encapsulation technology

A team of MIT researchers has come up with a new approach to fortifying foods by encapsulating micronutrients such as iron and vitamin A—a strategy that they hope will help fight malnutrition in the developing world. Their approach uses a polymer called BMC to encapsulate the micronutrients and thus prevent them from degrading over time or during cooking. The research team tested about 50 different polymers before zeroing in on BMC.

BMC, which is generally recognized as safe (GRAS), can also be used to encapsulate other micronutrients, including zinc, vitamin B2, niacin, biotin, and vitamin C. Combinations of up to four nutrients can be encapsulated together, the researchers found.

Laboratory tests demonstrated that the encapsulated nutrients were capable of withstanding two hours of boiling temperatures without losing efficacy. Encapsulation also protected the nutrients from ultraviolet light and oxidizing chemicals, such as the polyphenols that are found in fruits and vegetables, MIT reported in a press release.

For the project, the researchers tested the concept in laboratory mice and demonstrated that the encapsulating particles broke down in the animals’ stomach and traveled to the small intestine, where nutrients could be absorbed. The team then moved on to trials with human subjects, led by a professor at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, and found that if the concentration of encapsulated iron sulfate used to fortify food was high enough (18%), the subjects could effectively absorb it at a rate that was comparable to unencapsulated iron sulfate.

They explain that encapsulation is helpful when working with iron and vitamin A because the latter is sensitive to degradation during heating, and fortifying food with iron can give it a metallic taste because the iron binds to other molecules in the food.

The research, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is important because about a quarter of the global population is deficient in essential micronutrients. The next step in the research will be to conduct similar tests in a country where nutrient deficiencies are common. Findings from the studies were published recently in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

More from IFTNEXT right arrow

New appliance refrigerates, stores, and cooks meals

Before the emergence of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, one of the biggest complaints of busy individuals was not having time to prepare and cook balanced meals. A new appliance shows promise in solving that problem—for those who can afford it.

How ripe is your produce? This sensor can tell you

Researchers at MIT have developed a sensor to monitor the plant hormone ethylene to determine when fruits and vegetables are about to spoil.

NASA technology put to use to make ‘meat’ from air

Air Protein has developed a method of making meat analogues out of carbon dioxide. Based on NASA ideas about how to grow food on board long journey spacecraft, Air Protein says its technology can create protein in a matter of hours and without the use of any arable land.

New ways of farming reaping big rewards

During 2019, venture capitalist firms invested $745 million in novel farming systems in 75 deals, an increase of 38% over 2018, according to AgFunder’s sixth annual Agri-FoodTech Investing Report.

Latest News right arrow

Olam launches research award for innovations in food security

Olam International, in partnership with Agropolis Fondation, has launched the fourth biennial Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security, an award seeking ground-breaking scientific research that can deliver transformational impacts within global agriculture.

Report identifies regenerative agriculture opportunities

A just-released report from the nonprofit group Forum for the Future highlights ways in which regenerative agriculture can help make the food system more resilient.

International scientists propose eight elements to accelerate innovation in the food system

An international group of almost 50 scientists identified 75 emerging innovations and drew up eight action points to accelerate the transition to a sustainable and healthy food system.

Nestlé expands blockchain to Zoégas coffee brand

Nestlé has expanded the use of the IBM Food Trust blockchain technology platform to its Zoégas coffee brand.

Nature’s Fynd raises $80 million to commercialize a new protein

Nature’s Fynd, a food tech company producing a protein from a microbe initially discovered in the geothermal springs of Yellowstone’s ancient volcano, has raised $80 million in new funding.