Beta-casein may provide nano-delivery of curcumin

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Nutrition

Beta-casein micelles could provide an excellent nano-carrier for curcumin in functional health food formulations, according to new research.

The study, published in LWT - Food Science and Technology​, examined the potential of camel beta-casein micelles as a carrier system “to improve the solubility and hence, the bio efficacy of curcumin.”​ The researchers reported that using beta-casein micelles as a nano-carrier for curcumin could increase its solubility and bioavailability, compared to other delivery systems.

​[The] presence of camel beta-casein increased the solubility of curcumin at least 2500 fold,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Professor Ali Akbar Moosavi-Movahedi, from the University of Tehran, Iran.

“These observations provide another candidate carrier for curcumin with GRAS status,​ [that is] potentially useful in food industries and nutripharma,”​ they explained.

Curcumin promise

Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow colour, has increasingly come under the scientific spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its potential health benefits.

As a result, curcumin has been linked to a range of health benefits, including potential protection against prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, protection against heart failure, diabetes, and arthritis. However curcumin was among a host of herbs claiming joint health benefits to be delivered negative article 13.1 opinions by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in February 2010.

The authors noted that curcumin is poorly soluble in water, which limits its bioavailability and thus restricts its uses as a functional ingredient and for clinical applications.

“To increase curcumin bioavailability and incorporate it in functional foods, several carriers including hydrophobically modified starch, cyclodextrins, polyvinyl alcohol/polyvinyl alcohol hydrogel, polymeric nanoparticles and bovine whole casein micelles have been investigated,” ​noted Moosavi-Movahedi and his team.

Study details

The new study investigated the ability of camel beta-casein – a self-assembling protein that can form micellar nanostructures - to be used as a carrier system for curcumin via nano-encapsulation.

The research team said that camel beta-casein micelles interact with curcumin mainly via hydrophobic interactions, which increases the solubility of curcumin and therefore improves its bioavailability and antioxidant activity.

“Additionally, the cytotoxicity of curcumin to human leukemia cell line K-562 was enhanced in the presence of B-CN micelles,”​ said Moosavi-Movahedi and his colleagues.

They reported that in contrast to other GRAS approved carriers such as whole casein micelle and hydrophobically modified starch, beta-casein micelle had a lower critical micelle concentration (CMC) value​the concentration of surfactants above which micelles form – “and consequently represents an obvious advantage among other biopolymers that have been proposed so far as curcumin delivery vectors.”

Moosavi-Movahedi and his team explained that the significantly lower CMC value of beta-casein compared with synthesized chemical copolymers and modified cyclodextrins makes it the most efficient GRAS approved protein emulsifier for the encapsulation of curcumin, and “possibly also other hydrophobic health beneficial compounds.”

Source: LWT - Food Science and Technology
Volume 44, Issue 10​, Pages 2166-2172, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2011.05.023
“Beta casein-micelle as a nano vehicle for solubility enhancement of curcumin; food industry application”
Authors: M. Esmaili, S.M. Ghaffari, Z. Moosavi-Movahedi, M.S. Atri, A. Sharifizadeh, et al

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