Curcumin is a natural polyphenolic compound with multiple properties such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and cytoprotective action. It is expected that curcumin has the therapeutic potential to prevent diverse lifestyle-related diseases. However, curcumin is not readily soluble in water and presents low stability under light, heat and physiological pH conditions which, in addition, implies an extremely low level of bioavailability. On the other hand, oleogels are semisolid systems composed of a liquid phase that is physically entrapped by a structurant network, ultimately leading to the formation of a gel. The continuous phase consists of a hydrophobic liquid (e.g., an oil) where a self-assembled network (composed by the structurant) is responsible for the physical entrapment of the liquid. The structural conformation is always dependent on the type of structurant used, which will dictate the desired final application of the oleogels. In this work, the formulation of an oleogel specially designed to stabilize and transport curcumin and to protect the lipid phase –mainly composed of a fish oil concentrate– against oxidation processes has been optimized.
To this end, a Box-Behnken Design was carried out to study the influence of the curcumin amount, the structurant concentration and the manufacturing temperature on the oxidation degree of the oleogelified lipid matrix and on the chemical stability of the curcumin transported by this system. The results were interpreted by using the multi-response surface methodology, obtaining the optimal oleogel formulation to minimize the lipid oxidation and maximize the content of vehiculized curcumin.
The results show that the optimal oleogel formulation –for samples stored at 23 ºC– was achieved for the following values of the variables studied: [Curc.] = 0.150 wt.%, [Struc.] = 4.461 wt.% and T = 64.63 ºC. In contrast, for samples stored at 40 ºC, the optimal formulation obtained changed slightly: [Curc.] = 0.150 wt.%, [Struc.] = 7.000 wt.% and T = 62.82 ºC. Finally, results suggest that oleogels are interesting structured lipid systems to transport and protect bioactive compounds.