Effect of the formulation and structure of monoglyceride-based gels on the viability of probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus upon in vitro digestion†
This research was conducted to evaluate the potential use of saturated monoglyceride (MG)-based gels in the protection of probiotics upon in vitro digestion. For this purpose, a Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain was inoculated into binary and ternary systems, containing MGs, a water phase composed of an aqueous solution at controlled pH or UHT skimmed milk, and in ternary gels, sunflower oil. Gel structure characterization was initially performed just after preparation and after 14 days of storage at 4 °C by rheological, mechanical, thermal, and microscopy analyses. Afterwards, probiotic viability upon in vitro digestion was evaluated. The results highlighted that all freshly prepared samples showed good capability to protect L. rhamnosus with the exception of the binary system containing milk. However, the digestion of samples after 14 days of storage showed that the ternary system containing skimmed milk exhibited the best protection performance ensuring a L. rhamnosus viability of almost 106 CFU g−1 at the end of the gastrointestinal passage. Confocal microscopy results demonstrated that bacterial cells were located prevalently within the aqueous domain near the monoglycerides and protein aggregates. Under these conditions, they can simultaneously achieve physical protection and find nutrients to survive environmental stresses. These findings suggest that MG-based gels can be proposed as efficient carriers of probiotic bacteria not only during food processing and storage but also upon digestion.