As the proportion of older people of the world's population increases, the incidence of chronic-degenerative diseases, the major cause of functional disability among the elderly, also increases. Thus, the development of bioactive-rich food products arises as an alternative for maintaining life quality for as long as possible in this age group. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein are hydrophobic bioactive compounds naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is known for its high provitamin A activity, whilst lutein - a more polar carotenoid - can positively modulate some risk eye diseases that predominate in the elderly. Protein-based systems have significant potential for hydrophobic bioactive delivery. Casein is the major milk protein and is extensively used as an ingredient in food products. Sodium caseinate has been widely used in food products mainly due to its excellent emulsion stabilizing capacity and high surface activity. On the other hand, the techno-functionalities of casein micelle are less studied and used in industry due to its slow rehydration capacity, despite consisting of a natural nanocapsule for calcium delivery, which prevents progressive bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Considering these facts, understanding the nature of casein/carotenoid complexation is of utmost importance due to the possibility of the presence of such a complex in functional food products. Thus, this project is innovative as the understanding of the interactions of different supramolecular structures of casein (sodium caseinate and casein micelle) with carotenoids (²-carotene and lutein) and the competition between both carotenoids with different polarities for protein binding was not yet evaluated. This study is supposed to provide a better understanding of how to develop more efficacious protein-based systems for carotenoid delivery.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: