By Govind Yadav
The exponential growth of the global nutraceutical industry is a result of consumers’ view of nutritional products as the key to managing health. Lately, there has been a shift in consumer preference from synthetic ingredients to natural and organic ingredients and foods. Further, they are seeking more variety and benefits from dosage delivery systems, beyond those possible through traditional (tablet and capsule) technologies.
The nutraceutical formulation scientists need to work much harder to cater to the increasing consumer demand. As sectors look to carve a niche of their own and create a differentiated product, an important trend is the growth and diversity of new dosage forms. As a result, traditional tablets and chewables are slowly being replaced by capsules, particularly vegetarian hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) capsules. Owing to their plant-based origin, HPMC capsules are preferred over gelatin capsules by consumers pursuing a plant-based diet. HPMC capsules are also preferred for consumers wanting non-GMO and free-from delivery formats as they are free from preservatives, allergens, starch and gluten.
As an example, let us look at the benefits of formulating probiotics in HPMC capsules. Probiotics are living organisms that—upon ingestion in adequate amounts—provide certain health benefits. To provide the desired benefits, the probiotic must contain an optimum dose of bacteria. The bacterial counts can be lost during the manufacturing process, transportation, and storage. Moisture content is key in the process—moisture can kill bacteria, rendering the formulation ineffective. It has been determined that there is a critical value of storing moisture content in which bacteria can maintain their structural and biological functions after the drying treatment.
Owing to their low-moisture content, HPMC capsules offer a significant advantage over other dosage forms. Apart from this, HPMC capsules can also help optimise the process of encapsulation and packaging of probiotics. After filling, HPMC capsules can be stored at a low RH (relative humidity). Once an equilibrium is obtained, the probiotic capsule can be blister packaged. This ensures a reduction in the moisture content of the formulation. The resultant moisture content will be maintained at a level that is lower than the initial encapsulation value. For example, if the storage conditions are 20°C and 11 percent RH, the final moisture content will be around 1 percent. Thus, this procedure ensures maximum bacterial survival percentage.