‘Excipient foods' show promise in enhancing nutrient bioavailability

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Excipient foods - that contain ingredients or structures that have no bioactivity themselves, but are able to promote the bioactivity of co-ingested bioactives - have big potential in functional foods.
Excipient foods - that contain ingredients or structures that have no bioactivity themselves, but are able to promote the bioactivity of co-ingested bioactives - have big potential in functional foods.

Related tags: Nutrition

Improving the design of functional and finished products by better understanding the role of excipient foods could help increase the bioavailability of functional nutrients, according to new research.

The growing demand for nutraceutical-based functional foods that are claimed to have health benefits over and above their normal nutritional function has also seen manufacturers pay increasing attention to the design and development of food products with a matrix that increases the bioavailability of these compounds. 

While the use of specially designed delivery systems for such ingredients has been widely investigated and used by industry to improve dispersibility, stability, food compatibility, and bioavailability, the potential for ‘excipient foods’ to improve bioavailability within a finished product less utilised.

“Recent studies have shown that the bioavailability of certain nutraceuticals can be increased by consuming them with other foods,”​ said Professor David Julian McClements, writing in Current Opinion in Food Science.

McClements, who is based at the University of Massachusetts, noted that the addition of digistble lipids to functional foods containing carotenoids increase the bioaccessibility of an ingredient that has limited solubility in intestinal fluids.

“Excipient foods can also be designed to improve the efficacy of nutraceuticals whose bioavailability is normally limited by other factors, such as gastrointestinal transformation or poor absorption,”​ he said. “The bioavailability of nutraceuticals with poor absorption characteristics may be improved by consuming them with food matrices containing components that increase cell permeability or reduce efflux mechanisms”

For example, the US-based expert suggested that piperine, a natural constituent of black pepper, increases cell membrane permeability and may therefore be added to foods to increase the bioavailability of certain bioactive components.

He added that cell membrane permeability can also be increased by adding certain types of surface-active food components, for example, sucrose monoesters and rhamnolipids. 

“It may therefore be possible to use these and other food-grade cell membrane permeability enhancers to increase the bioavailability of nutraceuticals,”​ he said. “Nevertheless, further work is required to identify and test this type of bioactive component, and to ensure that their utilization is safe.”

McClements suggested that future research and development should focus on the classification of nutraceuticals into different groups depending on the major factors limiting their bioavailability, and on using this knowledge to guide food matrix and delivery system design.

Source: Current Opinion in Food Science
Volume 4, August 2015, Pages 1–6, doi:  10.1016/j.cofs.2014.12.008
“Enhancing nutraceutical bioavailability through food matrix design”
Author: David Julian McClements

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