Snack Size Science: Fish oils and milk proteins drive nano-vehicle innovation

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Snack size science, Nutrition

FoodNavigator's Snack Size Science brings you the week's top science. This week we look at Israeli research into how whey protein can spontaneously bind omega-3 fatty acids to create transparent nano-vehicles for the health-boosting ingredients.

The following is a transcript of this podcast:

This is FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science​. I’m Stephen Daniells - bringing you the week’s top science in digestible amounts.

Unlike bacon and eggs, fish and milk may not be the most obvious and palatable combination for many people, but Israeli scientists report that protein from milk may encapsulate fish oils and allow them to be added to clear beverages.

Beta-lactoglobulin, the major protein in whey, spontaneously binds with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid from fish, and could then act as nano-vehicles for health-boosting ingredients. Researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology report their findings in the journal Food Hydrocolloids.

So, by exploiting beta-lactoglobulin’s ability to spontaneously encapsulate the omega-3 called DHA, and by adding pectin into the mix, the researchers obtained transparent particles about 100 nanometres in size – that’s about 50 times bigger than the diameter of your DNA’s double helix, but about a thousand times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.

In terms of practical applications, the researchers suggest these nano-complexes could be used in clear beverages, or indeed other foods as a way of fortifying with omega-3 or other compounds that don’t dissolve well in water.

While the news sounds promising, this is only the first report of the science. Next up is to study how stable the nano-complexes are to heat, and this would give us information about how well they would fare in industrial beverages that undergo pasteurisation or cold storage.

Just another example of how thinking small could lead to something big.

For FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science, I’m Stephen Daniells.

To read our full coverage of this science, please click here​.

Related topics: Research

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