What is Microencapsulation?
Microencapsulation is a process by which a product is sealed into miniature, microcapsules that can release their contents at controlled rates under influences of specified conditions.
Encapsulation is defined as a process that entrap, envelope or cover a substance into another substance, producing particles in the nanometer (nanoencapsulation), micrometer (micro-encapsulation) or millimeter scale (Lakkis, 2007; Burgain et al., 2011).
The encapsulated substance is usually called core material, active agent, filler agent, internal phase, or payload phase. A substance used to encapsulate is called coating membrane, shell, carrier or wall material, external phase or matrix. The wall material used in food products e.g. Probiotics or processes should be food grade and must be able to form a barrier between the active agent and its surroundings (Zuidam and Nedovic, 2010).
Microencapsulation technology offers advantages as it stabilizes the probiotics, increases their survival during storage, controls oxidative reactions, ensures sustained or controlled release at the GIT (gastro intestinal tract / digestive system) and above all improves the shelf-life.
The encapsulated probiotics are released from the micro particles as a result of many factors such as changes in pH and/or temperature. These changes may cause microcapsule walls to swell and rupture or dissolve.
Microencapsulation has been considered a viable technology to overcome Probiotics Challenges for a long time. However, it’s a fairly complex solution due to a host of factors.
- Most techniques used have led to high stress and degradation of the live bacteria, resulting to low survival rate and reduced load.
- The use of various microencapsulation materials leads to unstable and sometimes non-viable micro-capsules without any protection of the organism
- Formulations and innovations around gastric or enteric coating have resulted into the coating not ‘opening’ or dissolving in the digestive system and thus not releasing the probiotics at all.
Despite all these challenges with microencapsulation, it still offers the most viable way of reducing the loss of probiotic cell viability.