Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Food Nutrition and Human Health, Key Laboratory of Functional Dairy, College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering, China Agricultural University, 100083, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The low aqueous solubility, stability and bioavailability of hydrophobic bioactive compounds, such as β-carotene (β-c), greatly hinder their application in foods. Nanocarriers could overcome this problem by facilitating the delivery of the functional ingredients. We prepared lactalbumin (α-lac) micelles by partial enzymatic hydrolysis in aqueous solution. β-c can be incorporated into the cores of these micelles via hydrophobic interactions. The aqueous solubility and stability under 60 °C heating or UV light irradiation of encapsulated β-c improved significantly compared with free β-c. Moreover, it had an increased cellular uptake (3 times) and transmembrane permeability (13 times) in a Caco-2 cell monolayer model. It suggested that α-lac micelle-encapsulated β-c had an enhanced cellular absorption and transport efficiency. Encapsulated β-c also exhibited an enhanced cellular anti-oxidant activity (CAA) compared with free β-c. This work demonstrates that α-lac micelles showed a great potential for delivery of hydrophobic bioactive compounds in foods.