Abstract: Anthocyanins belong to the most important hydrophilic plant pigments. Outside their natural environment, these molecules are extremely unstable. Encapsulating them in submicron-sized containers is one possibility to stabilize them for the use in bioactivity studies or functional foods. The containers have to be designed for a target release in the human gastrointestinal system. In this contribution, an anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract was encapsulated in the inner aqueous phase of water-in-oil-in-water-double emulsions. The physical stability as well as the release of free fatty acids and encapsulated, bioactive substances from the emulsions during an in vitro gastrointestinal passage were investigated. The focus was on the influence of emulsion microstructural parameters (for example, inner and outer droplet size, disperse phase content) and required additives (emulsifier systems), respectively. It could be shown that it is possible to stabilize anthocyanins in the inner phase of double emulsions. The release rate of free fatty acids during incubation was independent of the emulsifier used. However, the exterior (O/W)-emulsifier has an impact on the stability of multiple emulsions in gastrointestinal environment and, thus, the location of release. Long-chained emulsifiers like whey proteins are most suitable to transport a maximum amount of bioactive substances to the effective location, being the small intestine for anthocyanins. In addition, it was shown that the dominating release mechanism for entrapped matter was coalescence of the interior W1-droplets with the surrounding W2-phase.
Practical Application: Microencapsulation of phytochemicals and bioactives is in the focus of functional food development. Here, the influence of matrix material, formulation, and structural parameters on stabilization and release of the molecules encapsulated has to be known for target product and process design. As the results are representative for hydrophilic active ingredients encapsulated in double emulsion systems a cross-sectoral use in the pharmaceutical sector is possible.