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Application Of Natural Polymers In Food

M. Rayner, K. Östbring, J. Purhagen
Published 2016 · Chemistry

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In food, natural polymers encompass a range of proteins and polysaccharides that are widely used in a variety of industrial applications to perform a number of functions including gelling and thickening aqueous solutions, as well as stabilizing foams, emulsions and dispersions, inhibiting ice and sugar crystal formation, and control the release of flavors. In the food technology field, proteins, and polysaccharides when used as additives and ingredients in food formulations, are often referred to as “hydrocolloids.” Hydrocolloids are a heterogeneous group of long chain natural polymers characterized by their ability to form viscous dispersions and/or gels when dispersed in water (Saha and Bhattacharya in J Food Sci Technol 47:587–597, 2010). These polymers are generally hydrophilic due to the large number of hydroxyl (−OH) groups imparting a high affinity for binding water molecules, allowing them to be dispersed in water in the colloidal state. Thus, the origin of their name—hydrophilic colloids or hydrocolloids, which in the context of this chapter can be considered interchangeable with “natural polymers.” This chapter reviews the main applications of natural polymers in food, specifically, the stabilization of emulsions, modification of texture by the action of thickening and gelling, as well as some additional functions polymers can provide with respect to preservation, health, and nutrition. It also provides some market figures on the volumes, prices, and key drivers for the development of natural polymers as food additives and ingredients.
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