Ingredients to Watch

January 19, 2007
Daniel Schatzman

 

 

This year’s lineup of ingredients to watch contains some the usual suspects-along with several fresh products. While venerable items like sterols and coenzyme Q10 continue to build momentum, exotic newcomers like acai and mangosteen are also demanding their time in the limelight. In a 2006 report, the Freedonia Group (Cleveland) predicted that worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will grow by nearly 6% annually through 2010. With a little luck, and a lot of R&D, some of this year’s ingredients to watch could be blockbusters by the end of the decade. Read on to find out why.

RESVERATROL

An international team of researchers may have found a missing piece of the puzzle surrounding the so-called French paradox-the observation that French people have low rates of heart disease despite diets high in saturated fat. In the November 1, 2006, issue of Nature, scientists reported that overweight, aged mice fed a high-fat diet supplemented with the extract resveratrol, which is found in grapes, wine, nuts, and some types of plants, lived longer and healthier lives than other mice.

In the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (Bethesda, MD) National Institute on Aging (NIA), mice received either a standard diet, a high-fat diet, or a high-fat diet supplemented with resveratrol. After 60 weeks, the researchers concluded that mice in the resveratrol group had a 3- to 4-month advantage in survival time compared with other mice. Moreover, by 114 weeks, the equivalent of old age for mice, less than a third of the resveratrol group had died, compared with more than half of the high-fat group.

While they were excited by the results, the NIA researchers cautioned that the study only involved mice and that less is known about the extract’s effects in humans. “There is a lot of work ahead that will help us better understand resveratrol’s roles and the best applications for it,” according to Rafael de Cabo, PhD, a scientist in NIA’s intramural research program.

Antoine Dauby, marketing manager at Naturex Inc. (South Hackensack, NJ), notes that the headlines surrounding the NIH-supported study have already had a positive impact on demand for Naturex’s resveratrol ingredient, ResveraPure. Naturex manufactures the ingredient using a patented process that creates extracts of up to 98% purity.

“There was already a market demand for resveratrol,” Dauby says, “but since this article was published in Nature, consumer sales for resveratrol supplements have significantly increased.” He adds that there has been a considerable surge in demand thanks to the media coverage. “This is only the beginning, and in the present context, we forecast a 300% boost in ResveraPure sales in the coming weeks.”

HMRLIGNAN

Lignans are a class of antioxidant phytoestrogens found in plants. Although the number of studies supporting the health benefits of lignans is growing, dietary consumption of lignans is falling. According to 2002 data from the Framingham Heart Study, daily intake of lignans by American women has dropped to less than 1 mg per day.

“Lignans are a relatively new area of research, but it has become increasingly clear that they are important micronutrients,” says Robin Ward, vice president of commercial operations for Linnea (Locarno, Switzerland), which supplies HMRlignan, a lignan extract derived from Norwegian spruce. “The mode of action for lignans is not fully understood, but our own studies have identified that hydroxymatairesinol, the principal lignan in HMRlignan, acts as a key antiinflammatory to the benefit of heart health, is a powerful free radical scavenger, and is a key dietary precursor of enterolactone-a human metabolite that may act to protect against the negative effects of estrogens.”

While a new study involving HMRlignan and postmenopausal women is planned for 2007, the earliest human studies on the ingredient show that it is a safe, low-dose way to increase enterolactone in the bloodstream, says Ward. “Increasing enterolactone has been associated with improved cardiovascular health, and reduced risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men,” Ward says. “In fact, a U.S. study suggests that increasing enterolactone may also be associated with decreased risk of uterine fibroids in women.”

While there are many different sources of lignan extracts, Ward says that not all of them provide 7-hydroxymatairesinol, the key compound in HMRlignan. “While much of the focus on lignans has been on flax sources over the past few years, 7-hydroxymatairesinol has been found to be the most common lignan in dietary sources such as wheat, barley, corn, amaranth, millet, and oat bran-foods more commonly found in the daily diet than flax.”

Ward notes that unlike other lignans, HMRlignan is not attached to sugar molecules that need to be cleaved in the intestinal tract. “In doses as low as 30 mg per day, HMRlignan has been found to increase enterolactone to levels exceeding those found in women consuming 20 mg per day of a popular lignan extract,” Ward says.

The response to HMRlignan has been “exceedingly positive” since its release in 2005, adds Ward. “The product has launched to market through a broad range of channels, from catalogs to healthcare professionals,” Ward says. “We expect significant growth in North America, with new formulas under development for launch in 2007 targeting both women’s and men’s health maintenance. We are also increasingly seeing HMRlignan being added to existing formulas to extend or refresh a product line or replace other lignan sources where-apart from being clinically proven as a more bioavailable source of lignans-HMRlignan offers a significant cost advantage.”

LUNASTATIN

Lunastatin, a chromatin-binding soy peptide developed by Soy Labs LLC (Fairfield, CA), may be a useful tool for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, according to the results of a study presented last October in Düsseldorf, Germany, at the Fourth International Conference on Soy and Health.

According to lead researcher Alfredo Galvez, PhD, molecular biologist at the Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics at the University of California at Davis, Lunastatin actually has two effects. First, it inhibits expression of HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme needed to produce endogenous cholesterol. Second, it also increases expression of the LDL-R receptor gene, which helps remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from the bloodstream.

“Lowering cholesterol is key to maintaining heart health,” says Ryan Schmidt, president of Soy Labs. “While statin drugs have been somewhat effective in that area, there is broad-based concern that the risks outweigh the benefits. We’re confident that all-natural Lunastatin holds the key to lowering cholesterol safely.”

VEGAPURE

Phytosterols are another plant-based category of ingredients that may improve cardiovascular health. Some studies have shown that sterols and sterol esters can reduce LDL cholesterol by 8–15% and total cholesterol by 6–10%. Meanwhile, market research suggests that consumers are willing to try sterols. According to AC Nielsen (New York City), 40% of Americans regularly buy cholesterol-lowering oils and spreads. Fueled by growing consumer concern about heart disease, the trend is likely to continue.

“Sterols are definitely going mainstream as consumers learn about their powerful heart health benefits,” says Laura Troha, marketing manager for Cognis Nutrition and Health’s (La Grange, IL) VegaPure line of 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. Also, 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. Many consumers miss a significant source of sterols, creating a need for supplementation.”

To meet the increasing demand for sterols, Cognis opened a state-of-the-art, $25 million esterification facility in Illertissen, Germany, in 2005. “The facility uses proprietary technologies and guarantees the highest possible standards of quality and safety,” Troha says. “Not only does it comply with Cognis’s own demanding food good manufacturing practices, it also meets all the criteria of ISO 22000, which places the highest safety requirements on companies in the food industry.” Cognis recently introduced four new sterol and sterol ester products that are identity preserved and free of genetically modified organisms-important properties for Europe, which has strict ingredient safety laws. The new products include VegaPure F40 WDP E, a water-dispersible free-sterol powder; VegaPure 67 WDP E, a water-dispersible sterol-ester powder; VegaPure 95E, a sterol-ester oil; and VegaPure FT E, a ground free-sterol powder.

Troha adds that a consumer outreach and education program is an important part of the company’s overall strategy. “Cognis vigorously promotes VegaPure ingredients to consumers under the Heart Choice brand through print and online media,” Troha says. “Specific consumer brands are featured as part of this extensive copromotional program, which is designed to drive sales of products formulated with the Heart Choice ingredient. We are reaching out to target consumers with messages that build awareness of the heart health benefits of natural plant sterols and sterol esters, and to reinforce their purchasing decisions.”

VegaPure is also GRAS approved for a wide array of foods and beverages. As demand for sterol-enriched functional foods continues to build, the names VegaPure and Heart Choice are likely to remain on consumers’ lips-and taste buds-for some time to come.

POMELLA

Pomegranate juice is taking the beverage world by storm, thanks to its growing reputation as a healthful tonic. Preliminary research suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. Despite its potential health benefits, however, pomegranate juice tends to be high in sugar. PomElla, a patent-pending pomegranate extract from Verdure Sciences (Noblesville, IN), may provide many of the benefits of whole-pomegranate juice without the extra calories. To ensure its potency, PomElla is standardized to punicalagins, the primary ellagitanins in pomegranate.

Although pomegranate’s effects in the lab have impressed researchers, until recently no one knew for sure what it did in the body. In the November 15, 2006, edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, however, researchers from the University of Florida at Gainesville reported that human subjects given PomElla absorbed ellagic acid from the extract into their bloodstream. Moreover, the punicalagins in the pomegranate extract also appeared to increase plasma antioxidant capacity by 32% within 30 minutes.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first published clinical study to show that human consumption of any pomegranate product can lead to an increase of antioxidant capacity in the blood,” says Blake Ebersol, marketing coordinator at Verdure Sciences.

PYCNOGENOL

Scientists may soon add improved blood flow to the long-and apparently growing-list of benefits provided by Pycnogenol, a patented pine-bark extract supplied by Horphag Research (Geneva). In a study published in the October 2006 issue of Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, the extract was shown to reduce edema, a common side effect of antihypertensive medications, by 33%.

In the study, 53 hypertensive patients received either a placebo or 150 mg of Pycnogenol each day for eight weeks. All of the patients already were being treated for hypertension with ACE inhibitors or calcium channel blockers. By the end of the study, the ACE inhibitor patients who also received Pycnogenol had a 35% decrease in ankle swelling. Patients on calcium channel blockers had a 36% decrease.

The latest study came on the heels of two previous studies that appeared in 2006, including one that appeared in the September issue of Angiology. Pycnogenol’s impressive body of research also attracted the attention of another publication, Newsweek, which included an article on the extract in its November 6 issue.

“The Newsweek article has dramatically increased the interest level in Pycnogenol,” says Horphag CEO Victor Ferrari, who notes that in addition to publicity, the article also gave the supplement more credibility. Newsweek mentioned that Pycnogenol is backed by 36 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Ferrari adds that there are actually 175 scientific publications on Pycnogenol, including 140 publications on Medline. Moreover, 22 studies were published in 2006 alone.

“Many of the new studies are truly innovative and represent unique new applications and marketing opportunities for the industry, particularly in the fields of inflammation, diabetes, circulatory health, and ADHD,” Ferrari says. “It’s also important to mention that all safety studies have been performed on Pycnogenol following pharmaceutical standards and that Pycnogenol is generally recognized as safe. Quality, safety, and efficacy are the three pillars of successful marketing, and we at Horphag are applying the highest standards.”

In fact, Horphag has expended considerable resources to verify the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol, says Ferrari. “We are committed to continuing our efforts in further elucidating Pycnogenol’s versatile activities and health benefits,” Ferrari says. “The annual research budget is well above $1 million, and there are many more interesting and innovative scientific publications to come.”

ACAI

One of the best-kept secrets of the Amazon is making its way to North America. Acai, a small fruit used for centuries by the indigenous people of South America, delivers a host of vital nutrients, including essential fatty acids, minerals, water- and fat-soluble vitamins, and fiber. Acai berries are also rich in anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments that give the fruit its bright purple color.

According to Ralph Sharma, CEO of Markan Global (Port Murray, NJ), acai’s natural nutrient content, strong antioxidant properties, and versatility make it an attractive choice for product formulators. “Acai may be used in a variety of solid dosage forms, as well as in refrigerated and nonrefrigerated drinks, dairy products, energy and meal-replacement bars, and other products,” Sharma says. Markan tests the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) content of its acai, which is derived from the whole fruit rather than just the juice or pulp.

“We are working with several large companies that are in the process of launching new supplements that feature our pure acai extract,” Sharma says. “We anticipate that several other renowned companies will base their nutritional supplements on our acai in 2007, including one company that plans to use our acai extract in a new cosmetic product.”

PACRAN

Thanksgiving may be over, but that’s no reason to stop eating cranberries. According to researchers, cranberries are not only strong antioxidants, they also exhibit strong antibacterial effects. In 2004, the French Food Safety Authority approved a health claim for cranberry acknowledging its ability to help reduce the adhesion of E. coli bacteria to urinary tract walls.

Doug Klaiber, general manager of Decas Botanical Synergies (Carver, MA), which supplies PACran whole-cranberry powder, notes that the heath claim has prompted increased demand for cranberry products, particularly in Europe. In addition, PACran, which is standardized to contain a minimum of 1.5% proanthocyanidins, recently was shown to help ward off urinary tract infection (UTI) in a 90-day double-blind study.

In the trial, researchers randomly assigned either 1000 mg of PACran, 500 mg of PACran, or a placebo to 57 women and took urine samples at several different points throughout the study. At the end of the trial, the researchers found no change in the presence of E. coli in samples from the control group. But did find a highly significant reduction in the 1000-mg PACran group and a moderately significant reduction in the 500-mg PACran group.

“The proanthocyanidins in the product are believed to be the active ingredient responsible for the beneficial effects of PACran powder in the management of recurrent UTIs,” says lead author Archana Chatterjee, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and medical microbiology and immunology at Creighton University Medical Center (Omaha, NE).

Klaiber says it’s important for manufacturers to ensure that their extracts contain proanthocyanidins, which are involved in the fruit’s ability to thwart bacterial adhesion. “PACran is the first and only cranberry extract to be both proanthocyanidins standardized and clinically supported at a 500-mg daily dose,” says Klaiber. “Additionally, we use the only published and USDA-recognized HPLC method for measuring proanthocyanidins. Other cranberry extracts neither guarantee proanthocyanidin levels nor measure using this USDA-recognized method. We have set a bar by which all cranberry powders and extracts are being compared.”

MANGOSTEEN

Mangosteen, also known as the Queen of the Fruits in Asia, had a royal year in 2006. Mangosteen has surged in popularity, due in part to mass availability in beverages like XanGo Inc.’s (Lehi, UT) XanGo Juice and supplements like Renaissance Herbs Inc.’s (Chatsworth, CA) XanoMax.

According to John Digles, XanGo’s senior vice president of marketing, education is key to building demand for products like mangosteen. “Consumer interest in mangosteen is driven by knowledge and the desire to know more about the fruit,” Digles explains. “Feedback from consumers shows high interest in the fruit’s antioxidant benefits, particularly its immune-system boost and digestive-system support.”

Digles adds that consumers also like mangosteen’s exotic taste and mystique. “It’s a thrilling discovery with some pop culture panache, engaging research, and a big future,” Digles says.

Although research on mangosteen and its active xanthone ingredients is still in the very early stages, Digles says the results are exciting so far. “Research shows xanthones possess potent antioxidant properties,” Digles explains. “Science has to catch up to consumer demand, especially in the areas of joint health and pain management.”

Researchers also need to identify the optimal level of xanthones needed by the average person. “Some products in our marketplace scream about their loads of xanthones,” Digles says. “But how much do we really need? How much can the body absorb before it disposes of the rest? We should look to sound research to lead the way and give us genuine answers.” Digles adds that XanGo has worked with the research community to develop a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method and standard for mangosteen to help answer some of these questions. “At this moment, our method is just finishing its single-lab validation, and we plan on submitting it to AOAC for publication early next year,” Digles says. “This will be the only method that has been validated and published.”

WHEATSELECT

Many Americans say they like the health benefits of whole flour, but when it comes to taste, most stick with enriched white flour. Thanks to a new wheat ingredient from Horizon Milling (Minneapolis), an affiliate of Cargill (Minneapolis), consumers may no longer need to choose between health and flavor.

WheatSelect white spring whole-wheat flour has most of the benefits of whole-grain wheat. But it also has a lighter color, softer texture, and less-bitter taste, says Guy Schoemaker, president of Horizon Milling. The ingredient also provides enriched baking characteristics like improved volume and processing tolerance.

Horizon spent about 10 years developing the ingredient, including five painstaking years on the breeding and selection process. WheatSelect, which is tracked by comprehensive supply-chain and identity-preservation tracing systems, can be used in baked goods such as breads, bagels, tortillas, pizza crust, pasta, cookies, pancakes, and cereal bars.

“We’re very proud of our unique breeding program, which allows us to develop select wheat varieties for this cutting-edge product,” Schoemaker says. “The result is an improved white spring whole-wheat flour with a select advantage-all the nutrition of whole wheat with premium baking performance, and more of the look, taste, and feel that consumers prefer.”

NUTRIOSE

Although it is highly recommended by nutritionists and other health experts, fiber can be difficult addition to a product. Consumers may object to the taste, texture, mouth feel, or digestive discomfort associated with some fiber ingredients. Other fiber ingredients may be more acceptable to consumers but aren’t good candidates for functional foods because of solubility or other formulation issues.

Nutriose, a clean-tasting dextrin derived from corn, has several properties that may make fiber more palatable to consumers.

“In terms of formulation, Nutriose is a clear, low-viscosity, highly soluble, and dispersible fiber,” says Deborah Dihel, business development manager for soluble fiber at National Starch Food Innovation (Bridgewater, NJ), which supplies Nutriose. “It is acid resistant and tolerates heat, pasteurization, and shear, providing the basis for virtually universal application across a wide spectrum of foods and beverages.”

Dihel adds that Nutriose also improves the sensory attributes of foods and beverages. “The dextrin-based soluble fiber enhances low-sugar and diet drinks containing high-intensity sweeteners by compensating for the body and mouth feel typically lacking in these kinds of beverages,” Dihel says. “It also improves taste and aftertaste by reducing the off-note impact of high-intensity sweeteners, minimizing the acid bite from juices or teas, and mitigating the off-notes that come with vitamin supplementation.” Nutriose is also well tolerated, with studies showing that up to 45 g can be consumed per day without side effects.

The fiber ferments slowly in the gut, enabling the release of short-chain fatty acids that provide colonic health benefits. The ingredient also increases beneficial bacteria and hinders the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms. “The dextrin product assists in the absorption of energy over a sustained period of time, without digestive discomfort or bloating,” Dihel says.

Nutriose’s ability to balance functional and health benefits could make it a favorite among product formulators in general and beverage manufacturers in particular. “There is no question that more people than ever before are shopping for healthier-for-you foods and beverages, and in survey after survey of consumer trends, dietary fiber appears at or near the top of the list of ingredients that people want to see in their products,” Dihel says. “GMO-free and sugar-free, Nutriose can be added to any product with confidence.”

CINNULIN PF

Scientists have suspected for some time that cinnamon may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar. New research presented last October at the 47th annual meeting of the American College of Nutrition (Clearwater, FL) indicates that cinnamon extracts may also help reduce oxidative stress associated with metabolic syndrome.

In a 12-week, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 24 people with impaired fasting glucose received either a placebo or 250 mg of Cinnulin PF, an aqueous extract of cinnamon, twice per day. The researchers observed a significant increase in ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) and plasma SH (thiols), two indicators of antioxidant activity, in the Cinnulin group.

“People with impaired insulin function are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, the number-one killer in the United States,” says Richard Anderson, a research chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Washington, DC) who has worked extensively with cinnamon extracts. “This study tells us that the active compounds found in cinnamon extract may be helpful in reducing the risk of these diseases by providing cells with protection from harmful oxidation.”

“Cinnulin provides a safe and effective nutritional solution to millions of people suffering from impaired insulin function and prediabetes,” adds Tim Romero, executive vice president of Integrity Nutraceuticals (Sarasota, FL), which manufactures Cinnulin. “Moving forward, we will continue to invest our time and resources in additional clinical studies to further validate the science in support of Cinnulin PF.”

COENZYME Q10

Named one of the best prospects for growth in the Freedonia Group’s previously mentioned July 2006 report, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) remains a perennial favorite among supplement manufacturers.

CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient found in cell membranes that is vital for energy production. In December 2006, Jamieson Laboratories (Toronto), one of Canada’s most well-known supplement manufacturers, launched a 120-mg CoQ10 softgel. “Research has shown that the use of statins or cholesterol-lowering medications can deplete natural CoQ10 nutrient levels in the body,” says Jillian McLaren, marketing manager at Jamieson Laboratories.

Last September, Kyowa Hakko USA (New York City) announced that it would relaunch sales of its Kyowa CoQ10. The ingredient, produced at a facility in Hofu, Japan, is manufactured using a cost-effective, patented nonyeast fermentation technology that meets all USP, JP, and EP requirements.

“The benefits of CoQ10 are numerous,” says Karen Todd, director of marketing for Kyowa Hakko. “It is one of the most important compounds for maintaining optimum energy for cellular health.” Todd adds that Kyowa is offering free samples of 30-mg softgels on its Web site through February 28.

Kyowa Hakko originally began marketing CoQ10 in the United States in 1985. The company estimates that between 1994 and 2000, it controlled 50% of the marketplace.

“Kyowa CoQ10 is a significant ingredient with mutual benefits for manufacturers seeking to enhance their dietary supplement products geared to millions of health-conscious consumers,” says Charlie Kotani, president of Kyowa Hakko USA. In other CoQ10 news, Raj Chopra, chairman, CEO, and chief scientific officer of Tishcon Corp. (Westbury, NY), received the Bieber Award from the American College of Nutrition at its 47th annual president’s dinner and awards presentation last October for his academic accomplishments and contributions to the nutrition industry.

Tishcon, which manufactures Q-Gel CoQ10 products, has also been a major charitable contributor to Vitamin Relief USA (Ojai, CA). In 2005, Tishcon donated more than 14 million children’s chewable multivitamins through Vitamin Relief. “No words can express the gratitude and deep respect that we hold for Raj Chopra, Vipin Patel, and Arun Chopra of Tishcon Corp.,” Michael Morton, Vitamin Relief’s executive director, said last October. “Their extraordinary generosity improves the everyday moments of thousands of children whose lives are difficult and painful. What could be more noble?”

NOT JUST THE USUAL SUSPECTS

While this year’s list of ingredients to watch contains several well-known and previously featured products, most continue to generate buzz from a steady stream of clinical studies. Newer products are also getting attention, thanks to strong marketing and emerging research. The next year is shaping up to be an exciting period for the nutritional products industry and, if predictions hold true, novel ingredient introductions like the baker’s dozen mentioned above could help propel growth through the remainder of the decade and beyond.