Editorial Feature

Is Nanotechnology Found in Food?

Applications of nanotechnology are in the spotlight throughout all industries, including food and nutrition. Nanotechnology developments in these areas are a lot more recent than developments in nano-drugs and nanopharmaceuticals.

Efficient delivery of active food components, protein bioseparation and nanoencapsulation of nutraceuticals are just some of the emerging technologies in food and agriculture nanotechnology. Further advancements in food and agriculture biotechnologies also include nano-films and their applications in packaging.

Industrialists, scientists, and researchers are focusing on meeting the needs of these areas with the help of nanotechnology; examining their effects on nutrition level, efficient nutritional delivery, longer shelf life and good mechanical properties.



Nanomaterials exhibit different chemical and physical properties (including nano range size, size distribution, surface area to volume ratio, shape, chemical composition and agglomeration state) which are not apparent in bulk materials. Hence, it is not shocking that implementation of nanotechnology techniques in several industrial areas, such as cosmetics, medicine, food, construction materials, etc., has expanded in the last decade.


Nanotechnology applications in food sectors include: encapsulation and targeted delivery of particles, enhancing the flavor and sensory properties, adding antibacterial nanoparticles, increasing the shelf life, detecting contamination and improving food storage. Nanotechnology in food also results in change the nutritional functionality and eliminates different types of chemicals and pathogens from food (Chellaram et al. 2014). Nanotechnology has resulted in revolutionizing our approach to food engineering (from fabrication to processing), storage, and creation of new advanced materials, products, and applications.

Nanotechnology Food Industry Market

Currently, the nanotechnology food industry market has reached US$1 billion.

The massive potential of nanotechnology has attracted more than 400 companies from around the world to apply the concept of nanotechnology. Some of these include Kraft, Nestle, Unilever, Keystone, Heinz, Hershey, Aquanova and NutaLeaseetc, and this number is expected to grow in coming years. The movement of nanotechnology from lab scales to industrial scales shows the benefits and potential of nanotechnology in the food industry.


Taking the examples of Unilever and Nestle, Nanoemulsion based ice cream made by Unilever has various health benefits and without any compromise on taste. Nestle, has come up with another product based on water-in-oil emulsion (10–500 nm), aimed at achieving faster and simpler thawing through the addition of polysorbates and other micelle forming substances (Silva et al. 2012).

Aquanova has formulated a nanocarrier system using nano range (30 nm) micelles, known as “Novasol” which is used to encapsulate active ingredients such as vitamins C and E and fatty acids. They claim that nanoscale carrier systems can improve stability, effectiveness, and bioavailability of these compounds. Aquanova in association with Zyme is offering omega 3 in 30–40 nm nanocapsules, which is 4000 times smaller than the existing product on the market.

There are two main categories of NovaSolare: healthy functional compounds such as DL-α-tocopherol acetate; coenzyme Q10; omega three fatty acids; and vitamins A, D, D3, E, and K and naturally present colorants as apocarotenal, β-carotene, curcumin, chlorophyll, sweet pepper extract, and lutein.

NovaSolare can also be used as a delivery system of hydrophobic substances meant for higher and quicker intestinal and dermal reabsorption including penetration of active ingredients. Aquanova also Claims for improved stability – thermal stability as well as pH stability – of standardized additive concentrations and encapsulated functional compounds. NutraLease is working to increase the bioavailability of functional compounds such as lutein; lycopene; β carotene; vitamins A, D3, and E; Q10; phytosterols, and isoflavones which presents in various foods and beverages.

A NutraLease nanoemulsion can also shield flavor compounds from processing conditions and enhance the shelf life of various beverages. It is claimed that nanoemulsion can hold the flavor compounds and prevent their degradation by protecting them from unfavorable enzymatic reactions, oxidation reactions, temperature, and hydrolysis. They are thermodynamically more stable at a broad range of pH values.

Enhancing Nutritional Value

To enhance the bioavailability of various functional ingredients such as vitamins and carotenoids, flavoring agents, prebiotics, antimicrobials, antioxidants, peptides and proteins, omega fatty acids, colorants, and preservatives are incorporated into the delivery system instead of directly administrated in their pure form (e.g., nanostructures). These processing steps also degrade these active compounds which results in poor bioavailability.

To increase the absorption of these functional food ingredients, nanoencapsulation and nanoemulsion of these compounds can be carried out. The inorganic compounds such as silicon dioxide, magnesium oxide, titanium dioxide, in their nano-structure form, have been used as oxygen and moisture barrier by coating the materials.

Nanocluster system of a variety of products has been launched in the market which increases the surface to volume ratio of the particles. For example, slim shake chocolate with infused cocoa flavored nano silica increases the absorption of the taste buds to enhance the chocolate flavor.

The development of nanostructures for their uses in food products with different purposes such as (Chaudhry et al. 2008; Luykx et al. 2008; Weiss et al. 2008)

  • Prevent the degradation of nutraceutical compounds during the manufacturing processes, storage and distribution and at the same time, improve their stability.
  • To enhance the sensory properties of food products and thereby develop new products with new consumer sensations such as develop new taste, texture, flavor enhancement, color alteration, and consistency.
  • To improve the nutritional value of poorly soluble functional food ingredients (e.g., hydrophobic vitamins) by enhancing their bioavailability,
  • Prevent the damages from oxygen and water by acting as a barrier, therefore increasing the food shelf life.
  • To develop new food product with low fat and carbohydrate levels, intended for a low calory food product (e.g., mayonnaise, spreads and ice creams).
  • To develop the control delivery systems for various food ingredients.

Nanoencapsulation of active ingredients offers the controlled release of these substances at the desired site in gastrointestinal space and prolong the retention time. However, lipophilic ingredients such as phytosterols antioxidants and carotenoids can be easily solubilized in water by using nanotechnology.

Various compounds such as phytosterols, Lycopene and beta-carotenes are integrated with the nano-carriers and are used in the production of healthy food products, mainly to prevent the deposition of cholesterol in our body. The use of nanotechnology in the application of health added products gives a lot of health concern customers to industries.

There are many nanoparticles of various metals and other compounds which have been created and accepted by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and regarded as generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by FDA, example Lycopene nanoparticles of size 100 nm. The health benefits from water dispersible lycopene nanostructure can be obtained when it used in soft drinks. Another product with lycopene nanostructure is such as baking mixtures and blancmanges. Conclusively, it can be stated that the recent trends of nano-food focuses on encapsulation techniques, but at the same time, it should have a proper quality check and toxicity analysis before launching in the market.

Nano-Encapsulation Packing Technique

Nano-encapsulation packing technique of substances in miniature which provides many benefits such as higher bioavailability, controlled release, prolonged residence time and high shelf-stability of active compounds. Probiotics are generally referred as the mixture of bacterial species such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifido bacterium spp. and present in dairy food like yogurts, yogurt-type fermented milk, cheese and puddings and fruit-based drinks, etc. Their viability in food products can be increased by nanoencapsulation.

Nanoencapsulation is desirable to develop designer probiotic bacterial formulations that triggered their delivery to certain parts of the gastrointestinal tract where they interact with specific receptors (Kailasapathy and Rybka 1997; Vidhyalakshmi et al. 2009). The enhanced shelf life of probiotic organisms has been seen when nanoencapsulated with calcium alginate (Kailasapathy and Rybka 1997). Curcumin, a natural pigment present in turmeric and responsible for yellow color has health benefits properties which can be enhanced more by encapsulation in nanoemulsions (Wang et al. 2009). The bioavailability of lycopene can be enhanced by fortifying nanoparticles of lycopene in tomato juice, pasta sauce, and jam (Auweter et al. 1999).

Milk protein casein can act as a neutral nano-carrier and employed as a vehicle for delivering mineral nutrients such as vitamin D2 (Semo et al. 2007). Nanoencapsulation can reduce the quantity of active ingredients requires at a particular site in the human body due to efficient delivery. The protection of bioactive compounds such as protein, lipid vitamin, carbohydrate and antioxidants from unfavorable conditions, can be achieved using this technique for production of various functional foods with improved functionality, bioavailability, and stability.

Generally, compounds used in nanoencapsulation are not good for a patient's health - they should benon-toxic and biodegradable in the human body. There must be some toxicological safety evaluation which declares whether a specific product is safe for the human body or not.

The proper regulation of testing of nanoparticles is currently not completely in practice, and common toxicity tests may not be appropriate for nanoparticles hence new appropriate technique should be to test the nanoparticles. For the assurance of the effectiveness of the nanoencapsulated compound, that whether they are improving the specific characteristic of the compound or not, but few methods have been developed. One patented technique for nanoencapsulation can encapsulate bioactive and active compounds in neutraceutical products. These nanocapsules can be easily degraded in targeted tissues and deliver the active ingredients.

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