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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(3):221-37.

Microemulsions: a potential delivery system for bioactives in food.

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  • 1Riddet Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. j.flanagan@


Microemulsions are thermodynamically stable, transparent, low viscosity, and isotropic dispersions consisting of oil and water stabilized by an interfacial film of surfactant molecules, typically in conjunction with a cosurfactant. Microemulsions (so-called due to their small particle size; 5-100 nm) have found application in a wide variety of systems, such as pharmaceutical and oil recovery, but their application in food systems has been hindered by the types of surfactant permissible for use in food. The objective of this review is to provide an overview of the structures and phase behavior of microemulsions, methods of microemulsion formation, and techniques which may be used for characterization. A comprehensive review of previous work on both food-grade microemulsion systems, and non-food-grade systems of specific food interest is included. The application of microemulsions as reaction media, their ability to solubilize proteins and hence their use as a separation technique is also documented. In addition, attention is focused on the application of microemulsions as delivery systems for delivery of bioactive compounds, and the links between microemulsions and increased bioavailability. Future research, both applied and fundamental, should focus on surfactants which are not restricted for use in foods.

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