Here's to Good Bone Health: Calcium Fortification for Beverages

July 10, 2015

Formulating beverages can be an especially challenging task, and not every solution that is available on the market will be suitable.

Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the human body. Its positive effect on bone health and essential role in a number of vital body functions are widely recognized and supported by various research studies.1 Over the last several decades, growing consumer awareness of the health benefits of calcium and its potential to combat osteoporosis has pushed demand for calcium-enriched foods to an all-time high.

While the entire food industry continues to focus on calcium fortification, formulating beverages can be especially challenging. Not every solution that is available on the market will be suitable. This article outlines the main considerations for beverage formulators and identifies various calcium solutions that work for the development of appealing, calcium-enhanced beverages.

 

Calcium: The “Super Nutrient”

Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the human body. Approximately 99% of the entire body’s calcium supply can be found as hydroxyapatite in the bones and teeth. Besides being an essential element for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, calcium also plays an important role in regulating a number of vital biochemical processes in the body, including blood clotting, muscle contraction, cell proliferation and differentiation, and regulation of nerve impulse.2 Furthermore, calcium controls nutrient absorption, fat digestion, and metabolism.3 Because human blood contains only a small fraction of the body’s total calcium, maintaining adequate blood levels of calcium is essential to ensure normal cell function. Insufficient calcium intake, on the other hand, will cause the blood calcium level to drop, and the body may start pulling calcium from the bones.

The human body requires quite a large amount of calcium compared to other essential nutrients in order to reduce the risks of various chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, hypertension, and even some types of cancers. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a typical adult between the ages of 19 and 50 needs 1000 mg of calcium each day, while the recommended amount for children, adolescents, menopausal women, and people above the age of 50 is even higher.4

 

Calcium for Life

Although calcium intake is important throughout life, particular attention needs to be paid to calcium status during childhood and adolescence. Calcium is vital to a strong bone structure during these critical stages of rapid growth, and calcium is absorbed more effectively during this period than at any other time in life.

As the human body ages, bone mineral density begins to decline, increasing the daily amount of calcium required. If bone mass declines more quickly than the body is able to replace it, however, bones will get weaker-to the point that even the slightest fall or bump can cause fractures. The decline of bone mass is a natural process; still, changes in diet and lifestyle have caused the number of osteoporosis sufferers to increase exponentially. According to the International Osteoporosis Society, approximately nine million people per year are currently experiencing fractures due to brittle bone structures, with the number of hip fractures expected to increase fourfold by 2050.5

Ensuring adequate calcium intake can help reduce the effects of naturally decreasing bone mass and delay the onset of osteoporosis.6 While the positive effects of calcium on bone strength are well documented and widely accepted, recent studies also point to a number of other benefits that come with a high-calcium diet. Findings from a U.S. study, for example, indicate that increased calcium intake can reduce the risk of developing hyperparathyroidism, a hormone condition common in postmenopausal women, by 44%.7

 

Fortified Beverages: A Viable Solution

Traditional calcium sources, such as cheeses, yogurt, and most of all milk, are by far the biggest sources of calcium in most diets. Although alternative calcium-rich food sources are available for people who do not consume dairy products or who are lactose intolerant, these sources rarely provide the recommended daily amount. As a result, consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives or additional calcium sources that will help them achieve adequate intake, as well as sources that cater to a broader range of dietary needs.

Rising consumer interest in healthy nutrition is driving growth in the functional foods market. The world market for functional foods and drinks is predicted to reach $130 billion by 2015.8 While calcium is used to fortify a wide range of food types, beverages have proved to be a good medium for enhancement, as they are convenient and widely consumed across many demographics.

Calcium fortification is possible in nearly all beverage categories, including waters, sports drinks, soft drinks, soya milk, and fruit juices. Although various ingredient solutions are available, finding a calcium source that will enhance the mineral content of beverages without lessening a beverage’s consumer appeal is not always easy, however. Depending on the type of drink, its consistency, taste profile, appearance, and target health claim, manufacturers will need to consider a number of factors, such as bioavailability, solubility, concentration, and flavor, before deciding which calcium source is ideal for their product. Selecting the right ingredient from the right supplier ensures formulation success and significantly speeds up time to market.

 

Bioavailability Matters

Calcium’s bioavailability is possibly one of the most important aspects to consider because it determines how well blood in the body is able to absorb the calcium. On average, an adult human body is able to absorb about 30% of the calcium consumed, while the rest is discharged, unused.9

Although calcium in milk is the most bioavailable, research has demonstrated that calcium absorption from carbonate, acetate, lactate, gluconate, and citrate salts of calcium is similar to that of whole milk.10 However, determining the bioavailability of calcium sources is not as straightforward as generally assumed because it is highly dependent on a number of factors, including the amount of calcium consumed, age and physical state of the consumer, diet habits, and type of food.

While calcium is best consumed with a meal (because the prolonged transport will benefit the overall absorption level), some ingredients, such as sodium and caffeine, can decrease the effectiveness of the calcium source. Vitamin D and some fats, on the other hand, can stimulate its absorption. Although the most common calcium salts, such as carbonate, citrate, lactate, and gluconate, show comparable absorption levels when consumed with a meal, the same cannot always be said in the case of beverages.

One study showed that calcium lactate and gluconate delivered more bioaccessible calcium when consumed with a glass of water, making them the preferred choice for a wide variety of beverages, including sports drinks and clear products such as flavored water.11

Solubility or Concentration?

Besides a high level of bioavailability, beverage manufacturers are also looking for high solubility, short dissolution time, and sufficient calcium content. While some of the most common calcium sources, such as calcium citrate and phosphate, are less soluble, according to our company’s internal research, calcium lactate and calcium gluconate have demonstrated high solubility at both low and neutral pH and dissolve quickly even at low processing temperatures.

Solubility often comes at a price, however: concentration. While calcium citrate and phosphate boast calcium contents of 21% and 38%, respectively, they are frequently unsuitable for beverages due to their poor solubility. Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate, which are highly soluble, contain only 9%–14% calcium. As a result, more of these calcium salts may be required in order for a beverage to achieve a desired health claim.

Nevertheless, solubility will be the deciding factor for the majority of beverage formulators, and the good news is that lactate and gluconate allow sufficient fortification without affecting important features like taste and appearance.

 

Calcium: The Sixth Taste?

Maintaining the original flavor of a beverage is critical for all manufacturers looking to add value to their products. While the importance of calcium in the human diet is widely acknowledged, calcium’s addition to beverages has historically been difficult due to calcium’s bitter taste profile.

Many consumers are highly averse to calcium’s distinctive taste and avoid high-calcium foods such as collard greens and kale. Some have even suggested naming calcium the “sixth taste” due to research indicating the existence of a calcium-sensing taste receptor on the human tongue.12

Although less-soluble solutions such as calcium citrate and calcium phosphate are known to be less bitter than most other calcium salts, they can have a chalky flavor and sandy mouthfeel. As a result, manufacturers are increasingly attracted to calcium sources with a more neutral taste profile, such as calcium lactate or calcium gluconate, in order to maintain the palatability of their beverages without the need for masking agents or stabilizers.

 

Summary

Consumers are increasingly looking for beverages to help them maintain recommended calcium levels in order to avoid bone loss or degradation and other related complications in later life. Fortified beverages are regarded as a convenient way to increase the daily intake of calcium, but their development has proven to be challenging to manufacturers.

Although a lot of calcium ingredients are available, not all of them fit the criteria that beverage formulators are looking for. Careful consideration is required in order to develop great-tasting drinks that are high in calcium and offer lucrative and sustainable market opportunities.

 

Corbion is the global market leader in lactic acid, lactic acid derivatives, and lactides, and a leading company in emulsifiers, functional enzyme blends, minerals, and vitamins. The company delivers high-performance biobased products made from renewable resources and applied in global markets such as bakery, meat, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, home and personal care, packaging, automotive, coatings ,and adhesives. Its products have a differentiating functionality in all kinds of consumer products worldwide. In 2014, Corbion generated annual sales of €770.1 million and had a workforce of 1,893 employees. Corbion is listed on NYSE Euronext Amsterdam. For more information, visit www.corbion.com.

 

Also read:

Food and Drinks for Bone and Joint Health

Minerals and Vitamins for Bone Health Dietary Supplements

Minerals and Vitamins for Bone Health Dietary Supplements - See more at: http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/articles/minerals-and-vitamins-bone-health-dietary-supplements#sthash.fRSZFYui.dpuf

References:

  1. Dawson-Hughes B et al., "Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on bone density in men and women 65 years of age or older," The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 337, no. 10 (September 4, 1997): :670-676.
  2. "Guidelines on Food Fortification with Micronutrients." World Health Organisation, 2006
  3. Sizer, Frances, and Whitney, Ellie. Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies, April 2013.
  4. "Calcium: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet," National Institutes of Health, 2013
  5. "Facts and Statistics," International Osteoporosis Foundation, www.iofbonehealth.org/node/11862#category-14
  6. "Calcium and Vitamin D: What You Need to Know," National Osteoporosis Foundation, www.nof.org/articles/10
  7. Paik JM et al., "Calcium intake and risk of primary hyperparathyroidism in women: prospective cohort study," British Medical Journal. Published online 18 October 18, 2012
  8. "Global Functional Foods and Drinks Market," Global Industry Analysts, April 2014
  9. "Calcium: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet," National Institutes of Health, 2013
  10. Sheikh MS et al., "Gastrointestinal absorption of calcium from milk and calcium salt," New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 317, no. 9 (August 27, 1987): 532-536
  11. "Availability for absorption of calcium from four calcium supplements during passage through a dynamic gastrointestinal model," TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, 2003
  12. Tordoff MG, "Calcium: taste, intake, and appetite," Physiological Reviews, vol. 81, no. 4, (October 2001): 1567-1597