Cardiovascular Ingredients Take Heart


  Except for the 1918 flu epidemic, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States every year since 1900. And the latest data from the American Heart Association (AHA; Dallas) suggest that the deadly effects of cardiovascular disease (CVD) aren’t likely to abate any time soon: In 2004, the most recent year for which AHA has compiled statistics, CVD was an underlying cause in more than one-third of all U.S. deaths.


Except for the 1918 flu epidemic, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States every year since 1900. And the latest data from the American Heart Association (AHA; Dallas) suggest that the deadly effects of cardiovascular disease (CVD) aren’t likely to abate any time soon: In 2004, the most recent year for which AHA has compiled statistics, CVD was an underlying cause in more than one-third of all U.S. deaths.

Clearly, this assortment of conditions, which includes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure, and congenital cardiovascular defects, takes a heavy toll on public health. But thanks to updated diet and exercise guidelines from AHA, and continuing research into CVD prevention and treatment, healthcare consumers are benefiting from ever-increasing options for dealing with heart disease. Those options include a wider array of supplement choices, as emerging research supports a new crop of heart-healthy ingredients and consumers look for ways to improve their nutrition intake.“Supplements are there to enhance a healthy life-style,” says Scott Kamber, CEO of Bullwater Health & Fitness (Hoboken, NJ), which markets new Pomology Heart Health, a supplement that combines pomegranate, grapeseed, and blueberry extracts. “They can plug some holes in people’s diets to take care of particular issues and specific needs that they have.”


One of the newest heart-health discoveries involves prebiotics, long known as functional ingredients that offer benefits for gut health and immune function. The British Journal of Nutrition reported in December that inulin and oligofructose may have important cardiovascular properties, based on work by French researchers who added three Orafti (Malvern, PA) prebiotic ingredients-Beneo HP (10% long-chain inulin), Beneo P95 (oligofructose), and Beneo Synergy1 (oligofructose-enriched inulin)-to diets fed to mice that were prone to develop heart disease. The diets supplemented with Beneo Synergy1 or Beneo HP inhibited the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries by one-fifth to one-third, and all of the prebiotic diets lowered blood levels of harmful cholesterol and triglycerides.

“Inulin is a unique ingredient with multiple benefits,” says Joe O’Neill, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Orafti. “We haven’t marketed it for heart health in the past, but the latest research suggests important heart-health properties. For those people with extremely high levels of triglycerides, it certainly demonstrated a lowering effect.”

“There are strong indications of protective effects in certain disease states related to cardiovascular health,” O’Neill adds. “We want to make sure that we have strong science and a strong foundation to support particular claims.”


Plant sterols have been making headlines in recent years for their heart-healthy benefits. Although plant sterols have long been well known in Europe, U.S. companies such as ADM (Decatur, IL) and Cognis Nutrition & Health (La Grange, IL) are actively working to promote plant sterols for heart health to consumers on this side of the pond.

“Consumer awareness for phytosterols is growing in North America, and Cognis is currently in discussions with several leading food companies,” says Laura Troha, marketing manager for Cognis Nutrition & Health, which markets VegaPure sterols and sterol esters. “While consumers are familiar with the importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet, few of us get enough of these foods every day.”

Concentrated levels of sterols are associated with high-fat foods, and health-conscious consumers limiting their fat intake may omit these foods from their diets. So, many consumers miss a significant source of sterols, creating a need for supplementation.

“Cognis is vigorously promoting VegaPure ingredients to consumers under the Heart Choice brand through print and online media,” she adds.

ADM’s CardioAid plant sterols line received FDA approval early last year, greatly expanding its generally recognized as safe (GRAS) categories. “Currently, we are in discussions with companies that represent nearly all of the categories that CardioAid has GRAS approval for,” says Greg Dodson, business director of ADM’s natural health and nutrition division.Similarly, Cargill Health & Food Technologies (Minneapolis) is continuing to add to its portfolio of consumer products featuring Corowise plant sterols, including last year’s launch of Oroweat Whole Grain & Oat Bread. Three slices of the bread provide at least 0.8 g of plant sterols, the daily minimum amount recommended in the FDA’s health claim: “Foods or beverages containing at least 0.4 g phytosterols, when consumed twice a day for a total intake of 0.8 g/day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”


The most important omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), found primarily in oily cold-water fish, along with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is present in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, and certain vegetable oils.

The market for omega-3 ingredients is projected to expand as continuing research confirms the fatty acids’ roles in supporting heart health. In fact, one of the leading global suppliers of EPA/DHA fatty acid concentrates, EPAX AS (Aalesund, Norway), was acquired by Austevoll Seafood ASA (Storebo, Norway) in January 2007. The company plans to boost production at its Aalesund plant this year. EPAX has also lowered its specification limits for the sum of dioxins, furans, and dioxin-like PCBs from 7.5 to 5 pg/g in all of its concentrates.

“Thanks to our unique, two-step purification process, virtually all impurities and contaminants that can be found in fatty fish are removed,” says EPAX CEO Bjorn Refsum. “This process is different from other available techniques, since the oil entering the traditional concentration method of molecular distillation is already purified.”

Flaxseed, already a popular source of ALA for heart health and other benefits, got another boost last fall when a Japanese clinical study found that flax lignans from Frutarom’s (Minneapolis) LinumLife product are bioavailable, demonstrating that the ingredient is absorbed into the bloodstream. Based on research, consumers need a minimum of 50 mg a day of SDG, the main flax lignan, to reap its health benefits.

“The most researched areas for flax lignans are prostate health and breast health, but it’s also good for heart health,” says Laurent Leduc, vice president of marketing and business development for Frutarom. “Flax helps mainly in decreasing blood pressure as well as helping with increasing HDL. Those are the two areas where we feel there is the strongest potential for flax lignans.” Leduc says several human studies on LinumLife are being conducted this year and will likely be published in early 2008.

“People are going to use flax in combination with other ingredients,” he adds, “so the properties of flax as a strong antioxidant and antiinflammatory in synergy with other ingredients would have a beneficial effect. For example, you could put LinumLife in a fish oil soft gel, so you would get the synergy effect of the omega-3 and omega-6 with the lignans.”Another innovative omega-3 supplement is BioFlaxElite with Cranberry, a blend of organic flaxseed and oat beta glucan that helps lower LDL cholesterol. Bioriginal Food & Science Corp. (Saskatoon, SK, Canada) launched the product in May at last year’s Vitafoods exhibition.

“Omega-3s and oats both have a great reputation in terms of cardiovascular health and much has been written about their beneficial effects,” says Adrian Hughes, Bioriginal’s director of new business and technical support. “By combining the two, this latest launch represents a powerful tool in the fight against heart disease. This is the second in our BioFlaxElite range, and other combinations are being considered.”


Two heart-health ingredients already working in synergy are lycopene and CoQ10, which Soft Gel Technologies Inc. (Los Angeles) has formulated into new LyCoQ, introduced in August 2006. The soft gelatin capsule combines Lyc-O-Mato, a patented tomato extract from LycoRed (Orange, NJ) with Soft Gel’s CoQsol, a multipatented, bioavailable CoQ10.

“In addition to quenching free radicals, studies have demonstrated that supplementation with Lyc-O-Mato may be associated with a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure,” says Soft Gel president Ron Udell.

“Moreover, research conducted at the Soroka University Medical Center in Ben Gurion, Israel, found that a whole-tomato extract like that in LyCoQ has a beneficial effect on blood lipids, lipoproteins, and oxidative stress markers, in addition to lowering blood pressure at levels comparable to conventional treatment,” Udell adds. “Coenzyme Q is universally recognized as a powerful antioxidant and also functions in the production of cellular energy.” Udell notes that the unique soft gel formulation of LyCoQ includes tomato oleoresin and tocopherols, which boosts the absorption of lycopene into the body.


The Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on olive oil, wine, fruits, vegetables, and grains, has garnered widespread interest for its role in the heart health of native Europeans. CreAgri Inc. (Hayward, CA) has packaged the benefits of olive oil without the calories in its new Olivenol supplement, made from antioxidant polyphenols derived from the pulp of olives.

“With an ‘American version’ of the Mediterranean diet becoming more popular and acknowledged, Americans are seeing the benefits of consuming all-natural foods and beverages rich in natural antioxidants,” says Roberto Crea, PhD, founder, chairman, and chief scientist at CreAgri. “Olive oil is featured as its own food group in this diet, whose benefits can be seen in many areas, including cardiovascular wellness.”

Resveratrol, which is abundant in red wine, is already well known for heart health benefits but continues to see an expanding market, says Antoine Dauby, marketing manager for Naturex (Avignon, France), which markets ResveraPure resveratrol extracts. “There has been massive media coverage, particularly with the Nature study,” he says, referring to a report published in November 2006 that suggested resveratrol improved the health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. “We provide the benefits of resveratrol in a highly concentrated form with up to 98% purity,” Dauby says.

Whole grains such as oats also benefit from extensive research, showing a cholesterol-lowering effect. OatVantage oat bran made by GTC Nutrition (Golden, CO) contains 54% beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that imparts viscosity to the stomach and intestinal contents, leading to the lowering of blood cholesterol, according to Coni Francis, scientific affairs manager at GTC. “Research specific to OatVantage oat bran concentrate indicates that it reduces LDL cholesterol while maintaining HDL cholesterol, significantly reduces glycemic response, and improves satiety,” she says. “Because OatVantage contains a high concentration of beta-glucan soluble fiber, it provides benefits for heart health in as little as 1.4 g per serving.”


Pomegranates are hot right now for both their taste and their antioxidant content, says Bullwater’s Kamber, and the fruit’s popularity inspired Bullwater’s new Pomology Heart Health supplement with extracts of pomegranate, grapeseed, and blueberry; vitamins B12 and C; and 20 mg of CoQ10 per dose.

“There are countries that grow pomegranates where universities have funded pomegranate research, and Pom Wonderful has funded a great deal of research as well,” says Kamber. “Overall, these factors are coming together to create an interest in pomegranates. “But antioxidants are not a trend-they were healthy a thousand years ago, and they will continue to be perceived as important into the future. Our purpose was to create a formulation not based on trends, but on solid science. Pomology is a combination of ingredients that all have established track records of benefits to heart health,” says Kamber.

Pomella, a pomegranate extract supplied by Verdure Sciences (Noblesville, IN), is standardized to punicalagins, the primary polyphenols in pomegranate. According to Blake Ebersole, marketing manager at Verdure, a recent clinical trial showed that Pomella delivers absorbable antioxidants that can be measured by a plasma oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay. The study found that Pomella increased plasma antioxidant capacity by an average of 31.8% after 30 minutes, and after 6 hours, a second plasma peak of 31.7% was evident.


Lastly, Pycnogenol, an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, was the subject of eight new clinical trials related to cardiovascular health in 2006, according to Frank Schonlau, PhD, director of scientific communications for Horphag Research (Geneva, Switzerland). One of the latest studies, published in the October 2006 journal of Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, suggested that Pycnogenol reduced edema, a typical side effect of antihypertensive medications, by 36% in patients taking the medications.

“Pycnogenol helps restore healthy production of nitric oxide from blood vessel walls,” says Schonlau. “This gently and without side effects reinstalls the ability to regulate vascular functions in our bodies. Clinical trials at the University of Arizona at Tucson have demonstrated that Pycnogenol can significantly moderate blood pressure in people with borderline hypertension. Pycnogenol will stay in the news in 2007 with a number of study publications in the area of inflammatory-related health issues being released.”

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