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Fabrication, Characterization and Utilization of Filled Hydrogel Particles as Food Grade Delivery Systems

Filled hydrogel particles consisting of emulsified oil droplets encapsulated within a hydrogel matrix were fabricated based on the phase separation of proteins and polysaccharides through aggregative and segregative mechanisms. A 3% (wt/wt) pectin and 3% (wt/wt) caseinate mixture at pH 7 separated into an upper pectin-rich phase and a lower casein-rich phase. Casein-coated lipid droplets added to this mixture partitioned into the lower casein-rich phase. When shear was applied, an oil-in-water-in-water (O/W1/W2) emulsion consisting of oil droplets (O) contained within a casein-rich dispersed phase (W1) suspended in a pectin-rich continuous phase (W2) was formed. Acidification from pH 7 to 5 promoted adsorption of pectin onto casein-rich W1 droplets, forming filled hydrogel particles. Particles were then cross-linked using transglutaminase. Particles were assessed for stability to changes in pH, increasing levels of salts (sodium chloride and calcium chloride), and susceptibility to lipid oxidation. Both cross-linked and not cross-linked particles were stable at low pH (pH 2-5). At high pH, cross-linked particles maintained their integrity while not cross-linked particles disintegrated. Particles were stable to sodium chloride (0-500 mM). Calcium chloride levels above 4 mM resulted in system gelation. The rate of lipid oxidation for 1% (vol/vol) fish oil encapsulated within filled hydrogel particles was compared to that of oil-in-water emulsions stabilized by either Tween 20 or casein. Emulsions stabilized by Tween 20 oxidized faster than either filled hydrogel particles or casein stabilized emulsions, while filled hydrogel particles and casein stabilized emulsions showed similar oxidation rates. Using an in-vitro digestion model, the digestion of lipid encapsulated within filled hydrogel particles was compared to that of a casein stabilized oil-in-water emulsion. Results showed similar rates of digestion for both hydrogel and emulsion samples. Attempts to fabricate particles using free oil (rather than emulsified oil) were unsuccessful and resulted in the formation of large non-encapsulated oil droplets (d ~10 μm). By controlling particle concentrations of biopolymer, water, and oil, it was possible to fabricate particles that were highly resistant to gravitational separation which was attributed to the equivalent density of the continuous and particle phases. Results highlight the potential applications and versatility of this delivery system.
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