Ashmead said that magnesium is Albion’s number-one seller, from a poundage standpoint. Magnesium, for instance, is part of the company’s Creatine MagnaPower ingredient for sports nutrition, which is a growing market for magnesium alongside brain health. “Magnesium is required for muscle relaxation,” Ashmead explained. “Not the contraction, but for relaxation. So having sufficient magnesium so your muscles can relax can resolve a lot of cramping issues.” In fact, he added, magnesium is one of the few minerals outside of sodium and potassium that athletes “lose” when they sweat. “So if you do a lot of intense exercise, you’re going to have to replace it,” he said.
Clutter said that Jost has also seen increased interest in magnesium salts in the past year thanks to magnesium’s “bigger play in the health arena.” But he also said that calcium continues to be “big” for Jost and pointed out that Jost is seeing “renewed interest” especially from infant-formula firms in low-aluminum minerals, including calcium. “The calcium salt that you mine from the earth contains large quantities of aluminum, so you have to process it out, and we’re able to do it. Aluminum is very, very harmful to infants,” he said.
Ashmead said that by joining the Balchem family, Albion is able to benefit from Balchem’s expertise in encapsulation. “Minerals taste bad, and encapsulation technologies certainly are going to help with the taste, particularly as we look at more functional delivery systems,” he said. “That’s where the encapsulation can really help, not only with the mouthfeel but also to help mask that metallic taste.”
An Innovative Vegan Iron
With enhanced delivery in mind, Horn (La Mirada, CA) rolled out a new iron ingredient at SupplySide West that the company said not only provides digestibility benefits but also comes from a unique vegan source.
The ingredient is called SloIron, and it is derived from legumes. As Horn Human Nutrition’s vice president of innovative products, Sandy Chien, PhD, explained, the iron is extracted as ferritin-iron from legumes. As she further explained, the iron that’s inherent in plants and animals naturally exists as ferritin-iron. Whenever humans ingest iron from supplements or from meat, the body naturally stores that iron as ferritin-iron.
What is ferritin? “Ferritin is a large protein cage that naturally exists in plants and animals for the sole purpose of storing and releasing iron in a controlled and safe manner,” Chien explained. With SloIron, she said, “We have used a patented process to extract this naturally enteric-coated iron in a manner ensuring the protein is native and not denatured as a whole from plants as ferritin-iron.”
Chien said that legumes are especially abundant in ferritin-iron. To the company’s knowledge, she added, SloIron is the industry’s first vegan ferritin-iron ingredient.
The protection provided by the ferritin “cage” provides the consumer with numerous benefits. For instance, when the ferritin-iron is ingested, the cage keeps the iron contained, and it then releases the iron in a unique way that also prevents “overloading” and reduces the stomach irritation that can occur with other forms of supplemental iron.
Chien contrasted SloIron’s absorption process to that of chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are commonly used in supplements. With chelates, a mineral is complexed with an amino acid, which then enables the mineral to be absorbed by the body. But, Chien said, with a chelate, “once the complex reaches the gut, the bond is broken and iron is free, causing irritation to the gut cells and potentially caus[ing] oxidative damage.” By contrast, she said, SloIron’s natural ferritin-iron “cage” keeps the iron “protected” so that the iron is absorbed intact and slowly released.
Once digested, SloIron is transported into gut cells differently compared to other mineral forms, Chien said. “SloIron is transported through a different mechanism—receptor mediated endocytosis,” she explained, versus other iron products that are transported into the gut cell by di-metal transporter 1. “Each SloIron can cross the gut membrane as a whole, taking 2,000 iron oxide hydrate inside the cage. Then it will stay inside the gut cell waiting, again as a whole and fully protected. Each iron is released from its cage when needed and will enter into the blood plasma to be transported into cells and organs.”
All in all, Horn said, SloIron “mimics the way humans store and release iron naturally in the body for maximum safety and efficacy.”