18 Mar Nano-encapsulation technology? A new method of delivering omega-3 oil
The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are widely known. These compounds are vital for proper cell function, but they can only be obtained through diet and supplements because the body doesn’t produce them on its own.
The quest to deliver omega-3 as a supplement more effectively has led to new research into using ‘nano-encapsulation technology’ to deliver the benefits of omega-3 to adult as well as neonate mice, with a view to further human trials.
What are the benefits and dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids?
Dietary sources of these crucial compounds for cellular health include ‘oily’ fish such as sardines, trout and salmon. The potency of these sources explains why omega-3 supplements most commonly are given in the form of fish oil.
The benefits of omega-3, according to Mayo Clinic, include supporting healthy cholesterol levels, aiding cardiovascular health, helping to maintain normal blood pressure, supporting join health and eye health, promoting a stronger immune system and more.
What is ‘nano-encapsulation technology’?
‘Nano-encapsulation’ is the technical term for a chemical process whereby a substance is encased within another at a nano (microparticle) scale. Essentially, this enables the tiniest quantities of substances to be delivered in precisely controlled amounts (thus the technology has many potential applications for the medical, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries).
Although nano-encapsulation is used in many industries, it is said that only about 10% of possible applications are being used; thus the technology is still relatively ‘young’.
How nano-encapsulation is being used to deliver omega-3 oil
In a recent Chinese study, scientists examined ways to deliver healthy development -promoting omega-3 fatty acids to a foetus’s brain using nano-encapsulation. Using smaller-scale omega-3 supplements than traditional fish oil supplements was trialled to determine whether the newer technology yielded greater benefits associated with omega-3 intake (such as learning and memory improvements).
In the study, scientists used an edible corn protein as the material encapsulating the omega-3, also known as DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). They chose this specific substance due to the way its structure mimics that of a milk fat globule. The substance also helps to protect DHA from oxidation (a process that can reduce the potency of omega-3 fatty acids).
The scientists gave a sample group of pregnant mice regular fish oil, and another equal sample the nano-encapsulated fish oil to determine whether this technology would alter how effective the omega-3 supplements were.
What did scientists find in administering omega-3 via nano-encapsulation?
After administering mice omega-3 fatty acids via nano-technology and ordinary means, the team of scientists in the study observed several promising results:
· Mice receiving the nano-encapsulated fish oil had higher DHA levels in the brain
Scientists found that mice who received the nano-technology-given fish oil had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their brains than those who received ordinary fish oil. This suggested that the use of the newer technology enabled fuller absorption.
· Mice that received nano-encapsulated fish oil performed better in spatial and memory tests
The scientists conducting this study into new ways of delivering omega-3 fatty acids also saw positive offshoots in brain development in the group of baby mice born to mothers who were given nano-encapsulated fish oil. These mice performed better in spatial learning and memory tests in maze experiments that test the willingness of rodents to explore new environments. This willingness indicated more rapid brain development in mice that preferred to stick around familiar objects and places and were less curious to explore and learn more about their environment.
What did scientists in this study conclude about alternative omega-3 delivery methods?
The abstract published in Science Direct describes how nano-administered fish oil ‘achieved increased absorption in [the] GI tract, enhanced delivery to the maternal, fetal and offspring brains, and reduced fatty acid accumulation in the fetal liver.’ These were all findings that were promising for further human trials and testing. Further, the scientists reported that the nano fish oil diet yielded ‘enhanced learning and memory improvement compared to the normal fish oil diet’.
These findings suggest that there are many more ways we could be given natural supplements in the future to promote wellbeing.