EFSA Publishes Health Claims; Winners Include Xylitol, Caffeine, and Walnuts

April 11, 2011

Winners and losers in the newest batch of EFSA health claims.

The European Food Safety Authority (Parma, Italy) last Friday released another batch of article 13 general function health claims. Here’s a brief overview of some of the ingredient health claims which did (and didn’t) pass the scrutiny of EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allegies (NDA Panel).

Pass

  • Caffeine and exercise endurance: A cause and effect relationship was established for caffeine and increased exercise endurance for adults. The NDA Panel suggests that caffeine be consumed at doses of 3 mg/kg body weight, one hour prior to exercise, in order to obtain the claimed effect.
  • Walnuts and blood vessel function: Daily consumption of 30 g of walnuts can improve endothelium-dependent vasodilation, according to the NDA Panel.
  • Xylitol, Sorbitol, and other alternative sweeteners: The Panel confirmed that sugary foods and drinks, if consumed four or more times daily, will increase tooth demineralization. Consuming foods and drinks with sweeteners including xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt, sucralose, and polydextrose “may maintain tooth mineralization compared with sugar-containing foods.” Consuming foods and drinks with these sweeteners, instead of sugar, can also reduce blood flucose responses after eating.

Fail

  • Rapeseed oil and bad/good cholesterol maintenance: A cause and effect relationship was not established.
  • Lycopene and skin protection, DNA protection, and heart function: Cause and effect relationships were not established for lycopene and protection from UV-induced skin damage; lycopene and protection of DNA, proteins, and lipids from oxidative damage; or lycopene and a contribution to normal cardiac function.
  • Lutein and normal vision, skin protection, and DNA protection: Cause and effect relationships were not established for lutein, in combination with zeaxanthin, and these health factors.
  • Taurine: Cause and effect relationships were not established for taurine and delay of physical fatigue, maintenance of cardiac function, or maintenance of cognitive function.
  • Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) and body weight: EFSA could not confirm a cause and effect relationship between the green tea compound, combined with caffeine, and maintenance or achievement of normal body weight.
  • Probiotics and digestive health, immune health: Various probiotic strains failed to obtain digestive health claims (flatulence, bloating, bowel irregularity, etc.) and immune function claims. Strains that failed to reach cause-and-effect consensus included Bifidobacterium longum BB536, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis Bb-12.

The agency reports that 600 additional health claims remain to be assessed and are expected to be released by June 2011. Botanical claims are still on hold, as requested by the European Commission.

Members of the public may navitage EFSA’s claim summaries by clicking the “EFSA Journal” link at the EFSA home page.