(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
There are drinks sold as being beneficial for health, but the conditions under
which they are marketed and sold tend not to protect their nutritional content
by the time they reach the consumer.
Now an innovation based on
nanotechnology from Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology protects the
natural substances when added to clear beverages.
The researchers say the
invention can also be used in the pharmaceutical industry to protect drugs as
they move from the stomach to absorption via the intestines. It may also help
fight intestinal cancers.
The group, headed by Dr. Yoav Livni of the
biotechnology and food engineering faculty, developed nanocapsules based on
natural food ingredients and “imprisoned” in them vitamins and other ingredients
that improve health but aren’t water soluble.
The nanocapsules can be
added to clear beverages and enrich their health value without losing
Livni, who before joining the Technion was a member of the
Straus foods team that developed the dairy products Gemadim, Ski and Symphonia,
said the team used a natural reaction, based on melding the nanocapsules with
polysaccharide proteins, to create the nanocapsules.
This reaction also
causes cooked and baked food to turn brown. In the past, the technique was used
to create emulsions and add microcapsules to insoluble food components, but the
capsules were too big, and the beverages were not clear.
To overcome this
problem, the team mixed maltodextrin, which is the result of the controlled
breakdown of starch, into casein, which is milk protein. The resulting fused
molecules spontaneously reorganized and created nanometric capsules so small
that the liquid in which they are submerged remained clear.
captured vitamin D – a beneficial nutrient that many people are deficient in –
within the capsules. The scientists found that the vitamin didn’t break down
inside despite the acidic environment. Shelf life was thus lengthened
substantially. It also didn’t not fall apart when exposed to stomach enzymes and
could therefore be absorbed in the small intestine. Livni intends to research
the release profile of the new substance and how long it can survive
biologically. "We also want to study encapsulation of other bioactive substances
such as anti-cancer drugs.”
PRESERVE FLORA IN DRYLANDS An international
team of researchers led by ecology Prof. Fernando Maestre at Spain’s Rey Juan
Carlos University has finished a global empirical study that suggests that
preservation of plant biodiversity is crucial to buffer negative effects of
climate change and desertification in drylands.
The study, recently
published in the prestigious Science
journal, is the result of a five-year
effort involving more than 50 researchers from 30 institutions in 15 countries,
including Dr. Bertrand Boeken of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert
Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Dr. Eli Zaady of the Gilat
Research Center at the Volcani Institute.
The Israeli researchers
contributed research data from two long-term ecological research sites in the
northern Negev, in Park Shaked near Ofakim and in the Lehavim hills.
found that the ability of ecosystems in drylands worldwide to maintain multiple
functions, such as carbon storage and buildup of nutrient pools
(multifunctionality), is enhanced by the number of perennial plant species,
mainly shrubs and dwarf-shrubs, whereas increased average annual temperature
reduces this ability.
While small-scale controlled experiments have
provided evidence of the positive relationship between biodiversity and
multifunctionality over the years, this study is the first to explicitly
evaluate such relationship among real ecosystems at a global scale.
fieldwork was carried out in 224 dryland ecosystems from all continents except
Antarctica. To assess ecosystem multifunctionality, researchers assessed more
than 2,600 soil samples for 14 ecosystem functions related to carbon, nitrogen
and phosphorus cycling and storage. The functions measured deliver some of the
fundamental supporting and regulating ecosystem services such as soil fertility
and climate regulation and identify the onset of desertification
Drylands constitute some of the largest terrestrial biomes,
collectively covering 41 percent of the Earth’s land surface and supporting over
38% of the global human population. They are of vital importance for
biodiversity, host many endemic plant and animal species and include about 20%
of the major centers of global plant diversity and over 30% of the designated
endemic bird areas. However, dryland ecosystems are also highly vulnerable to
global environmental change and desertification.
“This study provides
empirical evidence on the importance of biodiversity to maintain and improve
ecosystem multi-functionality in drylands. “The results indicate that increases
in the number of plant species could improve the provision of these services,”
said Maestre. “Our findings also suggest that such richness may be particularly
important for maintaining ecosystem functions linked to C and N cycling, which
sustain carbon sequestration and soil fertility.
Because land degradation
is often accompanied by the loss of soil fertility, plant species’ richness may
also promote ecosystem resistance to desertification.”