While proteins have been widely used to encapsulate, protect, and regulate the release of bioactive food compounds, little is known about the influence of co-consumed proteins on the absorption of lipophilic constituents following digestion, such as vitamins (A, D, E, K), carotenoids, and curcumin. Their bioavailability is often low and very variable, depending on the food matrix and host factors. Some proteins can act as emulsifiers during digestion. Their liberated peptides have amphiphilic properties that can facilitate the absorption of microconstituents, by improving their transition from lipid droplets into mixed micelles. Contrarily, the less well digested proteins could negatively impinge on enzymatic accessibility to the lipid droplets, slowing down their processing into mixed micelles and entrapping apolar food compounds. Interactions with mixed micelles and proteins are also plausible, as shown earlier for drugs. This review focuses on the ability of proteins to act as effective emulsifiers of lipophilic vitamins, carotenoids, and curcumin during digestion. The functional properties of proteins, their chemical interactions with enzymes and food constituents during gastro-intestinal digestion, potentials and limitations for their use as emulsifiers are emphasized and data from human, animal, and in vitro trials are summarized.
- fatty acids
- surface tension