The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Emulsion-based Delivery Systems for Oil-Soluble Vitamins

The Challenge

Increase the ease of utilization, stability, and bioavailability of oil-soluble vitamins.

The Innovation/Technology

Tunable, food grade emulsion-based delivery systems for Vitamins A, D and E.

The Impact

Emulsion-based delivery systems enable oil-soluble vitamins to be incorporated into a range of commercial products (including those where they cannot currently be used) and improving their efficacy in existing products.

The Solution

Oil-soluble vitamins (such as A, D, E and K) are essential for human health and wellbeing. However, their incorporation into aqueous-based products, such as foods, cosmetics, supplements and pharmaceuticals, is challenging due to their low water-solubility, chemical instability, and low and variable oral bioavailability. As a result, these vitamins cannot easily be incorporated into certain groups of products, such as transparent beverages, sauces, or dressings. We have shown that emulsion-based delivery systems, such as nanoemulsions and conventional emulsions, can overcome these challenges.

Using a broad range of low-energy and high-energy homogenization methods, the UMass team can tailor the properties of emulsion-based delivery systems for desired final product characteristics (such as appearance, texture, & shelf life) and expected storage conditions (such as pH, ionic strength, temperature, & water activity). These emulsion systems are fabricated from food-grade (GRAS) ingredients (such as lipids, proteins, polysaccharides, and surfactants) using simple processing operations. For example, delivery systems that are transparent or opaque can be prepared by controlling emulsion droplet size (see images above).

Careful design of system characteristics, such as particle size, composition, and charge, as well as aqueous phase properties (such as pH, ionic strength, chelating agents, and antioxidants), can improve the chemical stability of vitamins during storage, and improve their oral bioavailability under simulated gastrointestinal conditions. In particular, the metabolism of vitamins under small intestine conditions, as well as their solubilization in intestinal fluids, can be controlled by varying the size and composition of particles in emulsion-based delivery systems. For example, the figure below shows the influence of oil type (long chain versus medium chain triglycerides) on the bioaccessibility and conversion of vitamin E acetate to vitamin E under simulated intestinal conditions). The use of long chain triglycerides as a carrier oil leads to a greater than 100% improvement in the bioaccessibility compared to medium chain triglycerides, which means that the ingested vitamin is more bioactive or less needs to be incorporated to get the same effect. Current research is directed towards converting these fluid delivery systems into powders that can be incorporated into dry products as well as wet products.

Salvia-Trujillo, L.; Qian, C.; Martin-Belloso, O.; McClements, D.J. (2013). Modulating beta-carotene bioaccessibility by controlling oil composition and concentration in edible nanoemulsions. FOOD CHEMISTRY, 139: 878-884.
Yang, Y.; McClements, D.J. (2013). Vitamin E bioaccessibility: Influence of carrier oil type on digestion and release of emulsified alpha-tocopherol acetate. FOOD CHEMISTRY, 141, 473-481.
McClements, D.J. (2013) Utilizing food effects to overcome challenges in delivery of lipophilic bioactives: structural design of medical and functional foods. Expert Opin. Drug Deliv. 10, 1621-1632
Contact Info

Julian McClements, Food Science