Ingredients to Watch

Natto, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, contains an enzyme called nattokinase that may promote cardiovascular health.
Photo by Creatas Images.

Now that the New Year’s season has rolled around once again, it’s time for two things: New Year’s resolutions and Nutritional Outlook’s annual list of Ingredients to Watch. Resolutions come and go, but with any luck, several ingredients on this list will be here to stay. This year’s ingredients run the gamut of consumer concerns, touching on sports nutrition and athletic performance, cardiovascular health, stress relief, and general wellness. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2008.

HYDROXYMETHYLBUTYRATE

Sales of sports nutrition products hit $5.5 billion in 2006 and could reach nearly $13 billion by 2011, according to market research firm Packaged Facts (New York City). Once the domain of serious athletes, the category of sports nutrition has broadened to include baby boomers and others seeking better health and wellness.

One ingredient to watch that may appeal both to athletes as well as the general public is hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB), a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. In his 2007 book, The Natural Fat-Loss Pharmacy, Georgetown University (Washington, DC) professor of medicine Harry Preuss, MD, selected HMB as one of about a dozen ingredients that may be helpful for weight control.

According to Shawn Baier, director of sales and marketing at MTI Biotech (Ames, IA), HMB increases muscle mass by enhancing protein synthesis and inhibiting the breakdown of proteins after exercise. HMB may also improve aerobic performance in athletes, Baier says, noting that 11 studies have shown a positive effect on lean tissue gain. One of the most recent studies involving HMB appeared in the October 2007 issue of the American Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

“There have been some interesting findings on the mechanisms behind the effects of HMB on increasing protein synthesis and minimizing protein breakdown,” Baier says. He adds that MTI sees potential applications in the sports nutrition and fitness markets, as well as in the medical nutrition and baby boomer fields.

BETAINE

Another sports nutrition ingredient to watch is betaine. Extracted from the molasses of sugar beets, betaine may have a sweet effect on athletic performance.

Betaine supports cell metabolism by protecting cells against dehydration and stress-related water loss, according to Danisco’s Texturants and Sweeteners Division (Elmsford, NY), which unveiled a betaine-enriched sports drink at last year’s SupplySide West show in Las Vegas.

Danisco’s betaine ingredient, BetaPower, is highly soluble and stable. In addition, it enhances beverage flavor by masking off notes. BetaPower can also be added to nutrition bars, gels, and snack products.

According to Mika Paulamaki, global product director at Danisco, several clinical trials have shown that betaine may enhance strength and power, even in sports that involve high stress or heat conditions. One study found that adding betaine to a 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage led to a 17% increase in mean sprint time to exhaustion; another study indicated that betaine enhanced voluntary strength after cycling. A third study showed that betaine boosted power, force, and maintenance in exercise. All three studies appeared in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“Historically, betaine is a nutrient used in animal and human nutrition,” Paulamaki explains. “But we found in new research that BetaPower natural betaine also improves athletic performance.”

INSUVITAL

Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) scientists recently discovered one reason why it may be difficult for dieters to cut back on sugar. In a series of experiments reported in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, the researchers found that tasks requiring self control deplete the body’s store of glucose, which gradually diminish over time.

One way that people can control their blood sugar levels is through dietary modification. Several dietary supplements also may help keep blood sugar levels under control.

Last December, DSM Food Specialties (Parsippany, NJ) released InsuVital, a hydrolyzed casein ingredient that helps promote the release of insulin. The ingredient, available as a powder, can be added to a range of functional foods and beverages.

“Recent data from the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association show that the number of Americans with higher than normal blood glucose levels has swelled to 75 million,” says Pete Willis Sr., marketing manager at DSM, adding that InsuVital is intended to help people regain control. “Many of these individuals can help maintain healthy glucose levels with a proper diet.”

NATTO

For much of the past decade, soy has reigned supreme as a blockbuster ingredient. Some recent market research suggests, however, that soy may be beginning to lose its luster. In fact, soy sales remained flat between 2002 and 2007, according to an October 2007 report by Mintel (London).

Natto, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, could help raise soy’s profile once again.

Natto contains a protease enzyme, nattokinase, that may help reduce blood clotting by dissolving excess fibrin. The ingredient also contains a significant amount of vitamin K2, which helps ensure that calcium stays in the bones and out of arterial cell walls.

Over the past few years, several ingredient suppliers have brought natto products into the United States. In 2006, P.L. Thomas (Morristown, NJ) introduced MenaQ7, and last December, Novel Ingredient Services LLC (Los Angeles) released its natto ingredient, NattoGold. Japan Bio Science Laboratory Co. (Osaka, Japan) also offers a nattokinase ingredient, NSK-SD, that is free of vitamin K2, which may interact with blood-thinning medications.

Manufacturers create natto by combining soybeans with a bacterium that converts the soy protein into amino acids. One by-product of the conversion is natto’s pungent, cheese-like aroma and sticky texture, which could be unfamiliar and challenging to Western palates.

Ingredients like Novel Ingredient Services LLC’s NattoGold may help make natto more accessible to American consumers. For instance, NattoGold is stable for three years in powder mixes as well as aqueous solutions, enabling it to be packaged in capsules, effervescents, and soft chews.

“NattoGold’s processing retains the closest chemical profile to the natto food source, and this has been an important requirement from the manufacturer standpoint,” says Robert DeJesus, marketing coordinator at Novel Ingredient Services. “The feedback from our leading-edge customers has been resoundingly positive.”

Probiotics products such as Fem Dophilus, by Los Angeles–based Jarrow Formulas, are formulated to ensure stability under a range of temperature conditions.
Photo courtesy of Jarrow Formulas.

PROBIOTICS

Beneficial bacteria graced the formulas of scores of new foods and supplements in 2007, making their way into everything from baby food to chocolate bars.

During a lecture at SupplySide West , Gregory Leyer, PhD, technical director of Danisco’s cultures division (Madison, WI), noted that supplement companies need to be looking at delivery vehicles “beyond tablets and capsules” to remain competitive.

Manufacturers are doing exactly that. But preserving the stability of probiotics in functional foods and other types of applications remains a key challenge for manufacturers.

According to Robbin Shahani, media relations director at Nebraska Cultures Inc. (Walnut Creek, CA), stability is, in fact, the single most important issue facing manufacturers today.

“Exposure of probiotics to moisture, heat, light, and oxygen causes even scientifically proven bacteria to die off and become useless,” Shahani says. He adds that while no company can offer unlimited stability under all conditions, most are constantly working to improve stability.

For instance, Shahani notes that University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE) researchers recently completed 24 months of tests on the stability of Nebraska Cultures’ DDS-1 strain of L. acidophilus. Robert Hutkins, PhD, a member of the International Probiotics Association’s (Des Plaines, IL) scientific board, conducted the tests, which covered a wide range of temperature conditions.

“Nebraska Cultures remains committed to providing raw materials of the highest possible stability, as well as educating manufacturers and consumers about the need to safeguard probiotic products against detrimental factors in their packaging and at home,” Shahani adds.

Other probiotics manufacturers are also working on improving the stability of their cultures. Danisco’s condition-specific line of probiotics, dubbed Howaru, is shelf-stable for 24 months, thanks to its unique stabilization technology and strain screening.

Another hardy probiotic ingredient, Ganeden Biotech Inc.’s (Cleveland) generally recognized as safe (GRAS) Ganeden BC30, can survive high pressure and heat as well as cold, and it can also be baked, boiled, frozen, or squeezed into foods and beverages.

“Until we were introduced to Ganeden BC30, we didn’t believe that a probiotic would be a viable ingredient in mainstream, high-volume foods and beverages because every strain we looked at was so fragile,” says Paul Flowerman, president of P.L. Thomas, which distributes Ganeden in the United States. “The self-affirmed GRAS status, cost-effectiveness, and survivability under harsh processing conditions make Ganeden BC30 a revolutionary product uniquely suitable for a wide range of food and beverage applications.”

CoffeeBerry, a standardized coffee extract supplied by VDF FutureCeuticals, contains a high concentration of antioxidants.
Photo courtesy of VDF FutureCeuticals.

COFFEE EXTRACTS

Researchers and consumers alike have been waking up to the health benefits of coffee. No longer seen as simply a morning beverage, coffee is now increasingly recognized as a health food in its own right.

At last year’s Experimental Biology 2007 conference in Washington, DC, experts from the American Society of Nutrition (Rockville, MD) cited research suggesting that moderate coffee consumption may be linked to a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions.

Not surprisingly, coffee extracts are becoming popular ingredients to watch in supplements and functional foods. One example is CoffeeBerry, a whole-fruit extract from VDF FutureCeuticals (Momence, IL). CoffeeBerry retains high concentrations of antioxidants that are destroyed when coffee is roasted or brewed.

One advantage of CoffeeBerry over regular coffee is that it is available in a variety of formats. In addition to the regular CoffeeBerry extract, the company also offers CoffeeBerry Energy, which is enriched with caffeine; and CoffeeBerry Forte, which provides at least 15,000 ORAC units per gram.

VDF FutureCeuticals recently expanded its product line with an item that’s sure to be of interest to beverage manufacturers: CoffeeBerry Soluble, a water-soluble extract that contains 5% caffeine and 6000 ORAC units per gram. Look for consumers to lap up coffee-themed beverages in 2008.

STRESS RELIEF

Elite athletes and sedentary consumers don’t have much in common. One problem they do share, however, is physical and emotional stress. At the 48th annual meeting of the American College of Nutrition (Clearwater, FL) in Orlando, FL, last November, researchers presented the results of two unpublished studies suggesting that a patented, yeast-derived, polysaccharide ingredient may offer stress relief to a broad cross section of consumers.

In the first study, 75 marathon runners received either 250 mg of Biothera Inc.’s (Eagan, MN) Wellmune WGP per day or a placebo for four weeks. According to Biothera, the treatment group experienced a 22% increase in vigor, a 48% reduction in fatigue, a 38% reduction in tension, and a 38% reduction in stress-related confusion.

In the second study, 150 people who reported living highly stressful lives also received either 250 mg of Wellmune WGP per day or a placebo for four weeks. Again, the treatment group fared much better than the placebo group, experiencing a 42% increase in vigor, a 38% reduction in fatigue, a 19% reduction in tension, and a 15% reduction in stress-induced confusion.

“Consumer awareness of the importance of the immune system to overall health has reached critical mass,” says Biothera president and CEO Richard Mueller. “We believe the results show that Wellmune WGP can meet growing consumer demand for natural products backed by credible science that safely support healthy immune function.”

SPROUTS

In the early 1990s, researchers from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) demonstrated that sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, induces enzymes that protect cellular health. By the late 1990s, the same scientists had discovered that broccoli sprouts contain much higher levels of sulforaphane than mature broccoli plants.

Last year, researchers made another important discovery. According to an article in the October 2007 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the topical application of sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts protects skin against redness caused by exposure to ultraviolet light.

The researchers found that at the highest doses, the extract reduced redness and inflammation by 37%, although the effects varied considerably among subjects.

Manufacturers are taking notice of the new data. Several companies now offer sprout products. For instance, Brassica Protection Products LLC (Baltimore), distributes a line of products called BroccoSprouts based on the Johns Hopkins research. In addition, Synergy Production Labs (Moab, UT) offers a line of more than 20 certified-organic freeze-dried sprout powders. Synergy grows its Synergized sprout powders using organic heirloom seeds under controlled light, temperature, water, and air conditions.

If further research on sprouts continues to produce encouraging results, the phrase “going to seed” may take on an entirely new meaning.