Protecting probiotic bacteria by microencapsulation: challenges for industrial applications
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The use of probiotic bacteria in novel foods to provide beneficial health effects is today of increasing interest in the food industry. The process stability of probiotics is, however, not always optimal. Microencapsulation technology can be used to maintain the viability of probiotic bacteria during food product processing and storage. Both true microcapsules with coating as well as microspheres where the bacteria are evenly spread in the coating material are discussed. It is important that encapsulation keeps the probiotics active through the gastrointestinal tract and releases them in their target organ. The survival of microencapsulated cells in simulated gastric conditions is therefore also reviewed. Polysaccharides like alginate, gellan, κ-carrageenan and starch are the most commonly used materials in microencapsulation of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Techniques commonly applied for probiotic microencapsulation are emulsion, extrusion, spray drying, and adhesion to starch. Bead stability can be improved by using different coating materials, e.g. chitosan. Future challenges in the field include recognition of new potent applications, selection of appropriate techniques, materials and bacterial strains, and minimizing the extra costs incurred by microencapsulation.