The importance of swelling for in vitro gastric digestion of whey protein gels

Ruoxuan Deng*, Monica Mars, Ruud G.M. Van Der Sman, Paul A.M. Smeets, Anja E.M. Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we report the importance of swelling on gastric digestion of protein gels, which is rarely recognized in literature. Whey protein gels with NaCl concentrations 0–0.1 M were used as model foods. The Young's modulus, swelling ratio, acid uptake and digestion rate of the gels were measured. Pepsin transport was observed by confocal laser scanning microscopy using green fluorescent protein (GFP). With the increase of NaCl in gels, Young's modulus increased, swelling was reduced and digestion was slower, with a reduction of acid transport and less GFP present both at surface and in the gels. This shows that swelling affects digestion rate by enhancing acid diffusion, but also by modulating the partitioning of pepsin at the food-gastric fluid interface and thereby the total amount of pepsin in the food particle. This perspective on swelling will provide new insight for designing food with specific digestion rate for targeted dietary demands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127182
JournalFood Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


  • Acid
  • Green fluorescent protein
  • In vitro gastric digestion
  • Pepsin
  • Swelling
  • Whey protein gel


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