Soybean is rich in isoflavones, a group of heterocyclic phenols associated with various beneficial effects on human health. Studies have shown that the health-promoting effects of isoflavones seem to depend on the individual's ability to convert isoflavones into equol, a metabolite of daidzein produced by the action of the intestinal microbiota. However, not all individuals are able to metabolize isoflavones to equol, and this conversion ability can vary, mainly due to the diversity of individual microbiota. Therefore, there is considerable interest in technological processes that are able to convert isoflavones into their bioactive forms, especially equol, thus producing soy-based products with improved health benefits. In this sense, our research group has been working on the development of biotechnological processes based on the soymilk fermentation by probiotic bacteria and/or enzymatic biotransformation. Preliminary results demonstrated that the proposed bioprocesses were able to increase bioactive isoflavones and equol contente in biotransformed soymilk, thus enhancing its antioxidant capacity and estrogenic activity, evaluated by cellular assays. The next key-step for this research project is to optimize of processing conditions and further scale-up the bioprocessing in order to establish the production of a soy-based product with significant quantities of equol in large-scale. The research group of Dr. de Moura Bell, at UC Davis, has extensive experience in scale extraction to convert food processing byproducts into high added value compounds. Therefore, for this research project, in collaboration with Dr. De Moura Bell, we propose to evaluate and to optimize the extraction of the bioactive isoflavones from soy extract and to scale-up the extraction stage as well as the soymilk fermentation for pilot scale in order to produce a biactive soy-based product with high equol content.
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