Using Nanotechnology to rescue vitamins and protein from pasteurization

By Valeria Bigurra Peñavera

A group of scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) recently developed a process to prevent the loss of vitamins and proteins that occurs during the pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization of drinks. They did this using nanotechnology.

The method uses nano-capsules formed with nanoparticles containing a biodegradable polymer with a heat-resistant outer layer, which serves to protect the vitamins and proteins that are stored inside.

nanoOringal Image: Flickr

The size of the nano-capsules is between 250 and 500 nanometers. When added to beverages, they prevent the degradation of vitamins and proteins, which are susceptible to heat.

All industrialized beverages are subjected to pasteurization or ultra pasteurization, in order to reduce the microbial load and make consumption possible. However, this process also loses a great deal of nutritional content, which is why normally vitamins and proteins are actually added early on in the process.

An advantage of nanoparticles is that they can reduce the cost of adding vitamins and protein up to 30 percent.

Maria Luz Zambrano Zaragoza, a researcher at the UNAM’s Cuautitlán Faculty of Higher Studies, told Mexican state agency Notimex that, in the laboratory, nano-capsules with beta-carotene (known for its antioxidant effects) were added to orange, watermelon and tangerine juices, and were then subjected to pasteurization. The results showed that there was a reduced loss of beta-carotene. Without the nano-capsules, the juices would have lost up to 60% of this substance.

This research is unique in its kind, and won second place in the UNAM Format of Patenting and Innovation program.

Currently the team is working on antioxidants, while others are developing nano-capsules for mashed potatoes and squash; this would be in order to prevent the loss of nutrients in these vegetables when subjected to thermal processes.

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