MICROPARTICLES FIGHT MALNUTRITION


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From vitamin B12 in your cereal to iodine in table salt, adding nutrients to food is an old idea. But it doesn’t always work. Long storage, changes in humidity and temperature, and other variables can slash the additives’ potency.
That’s a special problem when transporting food to places where famine has taken hold, often in hot, dry, and hard-to-reach locales.
MIT researchers have solved the problem by encasing nutrients in a microcapsules made of a biocompatible polymer called BMC, often used in nutritional supplements.
The scientists encapsulated 11 different supplements into the material, including C, A, and B vitamins as well as iron and zinc. Then the team boiled the filled shells for two hours, blasted them with ultraviolet light, and bathed them in oxidizing chemicals. In every test, the nutrients inside the capsule survived intact.
But the capsules broke down when sunk into stomach acids.
In an informal trial, anemic women who ate bread with the fortified microcapsules baked in absorbed the iron from the particles and their condition eased.
The research team now is gearing up for clinical tests.
TRENDPOST: In a drier world with less arable land, malnutrition will spread. New ways to ensure that people are nourished without demanding more croplands will become a key area of research and viable products will find a clear path to market.

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