Nanoparticles in Our Foods: Characteristics, Applications, Gastrointestinal Fate, and Toxicity

Edible nanoparticles are increasingly being utilized by the food industry to enhance the nutritional attributes, safety, shelf life, appearance, and texture of foods. A wide range of inorganic (e.g., titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, zinc oxide, and silver) and organic (e.g., lipid, protein, and carbohydrate) nanoparticles is being used in these applications, which vary in their composition, physical state, shape, dimensions, aggregation state, and surface charge.  There is concern from consumers, industry, and regulators about the potential risks associated with ingesting these food-grade nanoparticles.  Consequently, a great deal of research is focused on understanding the gastrointestinal fate of different kinds of food nanoparticles, as well as their potential for causing chronic or acute toxicity.  In this presentation, current knowledge about the potential gastrointestinal fate and toxicity of both organic and inorganic food nanoparticles is reviewed, with special emphasis on the lipid nanoparticles found in food-grade nanoemulsions.  In particular, the importance of taking into account the nature of the food matrix and gastrointestinal conditions on the properties of food nanoparticles is highlighted.  In the case of nanoemulsions, there are a number of potential risks associated with reducing the size of the lipid droplets that should be considered: alterations in the fate of bioactive agents within the gastrointestinal tract; enhancement of the bioavailability of undesirable hydrophobic substances in foods (such as pesticides and hormones); potential toxicity of some of the ingredients used in their fabrication (such as synthetic surfactants).

Dr. D. Julian McClements is a Distinguished Professor at the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts.  He specializes in the areas of food biopolymers and colloids, and in particular on the development of food-based structured delivery systems for bioactive components. McClements received his Ph.D. in Food Science (1989) at the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) in ultrasonic spectrometry.  He then did Post-Doctoral Research at the University of Leeds, University of California (Davis) and University College Cork (Ireland). McClements is the sole author of three editions of “Food Emulsions: Principles, Practice and Techniques” (1999, 2005, 2015) and of “Nanoparticle- and Microparticle-based Delivery Systems: Encapsulation, Protection and Release of Active Components” (2014), co-author of “Advances in Food Colloids” (1996) with Prof. Eric Dickinson, and co-editor of “Developments in Acoustics and Ultrasonics”, “Understanding and Controlling the Microstructure of Complex Foods”, “Designing Functional Foods”, “Oxidation in Foods and Beverages (Volumes 1 and 2)” and “Encapsulation and Delivery Systems for Food Ingredients and Nutraceuticals”.  In addition, he has published over 850 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals (with an H-index of 90 on Web of Science, and >112 on Google Scholar), 12 patents, as well as numerous book chapters and conference proceedings.  Prof. McClements has previously received awards from the American Chemical Society, American Oil Chemists Society, Society of Chemical Industry (UK), Institute of Food Technologists, and University of Massachusetts in recognition of his scientific achievements.  Dr. McClements is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, American Chemical Society (Agricultural and Food Division), and Institute of Food Technologists. His research has been funded by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, US Department of Commerce, NASA, and the food industry.  He has secured funding worth over $11.5 million as a PI or co-PI while working at UMASS.  He is the co-editor of Annual Reviews in Food Science and Technology, and a member of the editorial boards of a number of other journals.  He has organized numerous workshops, symposia, and international conferences in the field of food colloids, emulsions, and delivery systems.