Health & Wellbeing

Electrospun nanofibers may make for better delivery of healthfood supplements

A technique known as electrospinning is showing promise as a way of providing health-food ingredients with protection as they pass through the digestive system
A technique known as electrospinning is showing promise as a way of providing health-food ingredients with protection as they pass through the digestive system
View 1 Image
A technique known as electrospinning is showing promise as a way of providing health-food ingredients with protection as they pass through the digestive system
1/1
A technique known as electrospinning is showing promise as a way of providing health-food ingredients with protection as they pass through the digestive system

Packing food with nutrients, vitamins and other supplements to improve our health sounds like a simple enough idea, but protecting them as they pass through the digestive system isn't all that easy. While various methods have been employed to encase compounds for more effective delivery, a new technique is showing great promise as a means of keeping them intact. Scientists claim that coating the ingredients in nanofibers created through a process called electrospinning can provide a better safeguard, and could lead to delivery of improved health supplements.

Electrospinning is a technique we have seen in various forms across a number of areas of scientific research. It involves drawing a fluid through an electric field which serves to break the liquid down into microscopic fibers, typically on the micro- or nanoscale. It has been used in the development of dissolving tampons designed to protect against HIV, antibacterial materials and a potential replacement for scar tissue in the heart.

Its promise in the food industry stems from the fact that it can be carried out at room temperature using wet materials, and doesn't require overly complex chemistry. According to scientists from England's University of Lincoln, this gives it an advantage over existing methods of encapsulating supplements, which can damage the structure and the bacteria, as it better caters to the sensitivity of the materials.

The upshot of this is a potentially improved way of controlling the release of chemicals in the body, as the supplements can be better protected while being produced and also as they make their way through the digestive system.

Despite this promise, however, it is still early days. Dr Nick Tucker from the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln and leader of the study, is looking to build partnerships in the industry to learn more about the possibilities. He says work is needed to advance both the electrospun nanofibers themselves and ways of actually integrating them with foodstuffs.

The research was published in the journal Food Hydrocolloids.

Source: University of Lincoln

5 comments
Bob Flint
Sure go ahead you are what you eat... chemically laden hypochondriac looking for more.. Have people forgotten the basics, or are we at that critical crossroad whereby we can no longer find pure natural ingredients due to our over pollution of chemical additives into the air, earth, & water?
Noel K Frothingham
Bob, are you a coffee or tea drinker?
Scion
While I agree with Bob that nature has already developed a way to get nutrients to where they need to be : "food" There is the case where people find themselves in the position where food is not available or they are unable to eat large enough portions or the amount and type of nutrient must be supplied quickly. You could well imagine refugee camps, disaster relief stations and hospitals being able to make use of this. What is better? Scurvy because you can't eat an orange or full health because you can take a bite of "nutrient bar"? You wouldn't want to live solely on nutrient solutions but you usually do want to live.
Bob Flint
Noel, Non-smoker one daily coffee with carbon filtered water, no tea, no alcohol for past 9 months due to 11 pancreatitis attacks. Watching carefully what I take in since gall bladder has been removed. I have already been contaminated probably beyond natural repair, so the thought of further impurities over coating natural nutrients, & vitamins as they travel through the digestive track makes little sense. How will they have a chance to be absorbed when the bodies natural reaction is to counter-attack unnatural substances? I have been eating an apple a day, for the past 40 or so years, yet simple washing doesn't mean that the surface or sub surface contaminants have been reduced or removed.
Don Duncan
What is the benefit of retarding absorption of nutrients? Doesn't the digestive system do this correctly? No explanation is given. "...looking to build partnerships...", i.e., funding? I have eaten organic for 58 years. At 72 I am still learning about healthy eating. The only supplement I take is "Cardio-C" (Linus Pauling's formula) twice a day. I drink green tea instead of coffee except for cold brew, medium roast, organic, fresh ground used to flavor non-dairy shakes made with raw cacao & frozen fruit, or maple water cubes. Knowledge is key. I never eat anything before carefully evaluating the ingredients, e.g., no refined sugars, flour, grains/rice.