The Products Program highlight

Food Products for Precision Nutrition Program

The last 10 years have seen public and private resources pumped into the development of functional foods in Spain and Europe. Functional foods with anticarcinogenic properties have been of particular interest. In most cases, however, the expected effectiveness was never obtained, and these products have been of limited clinical use. After their incorporation into functional foods, bioactive ingredients that seemed promising in vitro commonly failed to return the hoped-for results in clinical studies. The problem often lay in the low solubility of these ingredients in water, which limits their solution in the intestinal lumen. This in turn leads to their poor stability during digestion and the promotion of their precipitation and degradation. They thus suffer from poor bioaccessibility (the quantity soluble in, and therefore absorbable from, the intestinal lumen) in the gastrointestinal tract, and low bioavailability (the capacity to be absorbed by the intestinal cells and eventually passed into the bloodstream).

New formulations are therefore needed that can overcome these problems and help these bioactive compounds become more active in vivo. In 2016, in collaboration with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, IMDEA Food patented a lipid-based system that not only stabilises many such bioactive compounds during digestion as well as improve their oral bioavailability, but in many cases potentiates their effects. Along with natural bile salts and phospholipids, this ‘self-emulsion-forming’ system produces microemulsions during digestion that stabilise bioactive components, preventing their precipitation or interaction with inhibitors of their absorption.

Their bioaccessibility and bioavailability - and in turn their bioactivity - is therefore much improved. The system also allows the lipophilization of molecules that are little soluble in water, facilitating their incorporation into foods. Our researchers have reported a formulation developed by them to have an antiproliferative effect on human colon cancer cells; indeed, a synergistic effect was seen between the vehicle and carried compound was observed.