Vitamins get a ticket to ride

PENN STATE (US) — Pockets of corn starch acting as a taxi service may offer a less expensive and more environmentally friendly alternative in creating vitamins and other medications.

Heat and acids, like those in the stomach and small intestine can harm or destroy vitamins. Researchers formed protective pouches using corn starch and a fatty acid ester to act carry oil soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A and vitamin C.

The research is published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers.

When a type of corn starch called high amylose maize starch comes into contact with fatty acids esters of vitamin A, for example, it creates a coil with an internal wall that is hydrophobic, that is it repels water—and an exterior wall that is hydrophilic, attracting water. The oil-soluble molecules automatically move into the coil that encapsulates the medication or vitamin.

“There’s an ideal size and the real work is to get the right balance of the hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties,” says Gregory Ziegler, professor of food sciences at Penn State University.

According to Ziegler, there are several benefits for using starches as hosts for delivering drugs and vitamins. Because starches are common, biodegradable and easily absorbed by the body, using corn starch could be inexpensive and better for the environment.

The pharmaceutical industry uses other ingredients and techniques to create inclusion complexes, like cyclodextrin complexes doughnuts of sugar molecules,  to form in a similar way to deliver controlled-release substances, such as Ibuprofen. Because the cavity in starch is a different size than that of cyclodextrin, it can increase the size range of molecules that can be encapsulated.

Corn starch could also be used in a variety of other applications, including those outside the pharmaceutical and food industries, such as in make-up, containers and even optical and electronic devices, Ziegler says.

“We have more work and research to do.The trick is how can we set this up so we can do it simply.”

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station supported the research.

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