Mineral Suppliers Talk Trends and Innovation at SupplySide West

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An innovative new vegan iron ingredient derived from legumes, plus other mineral news updates from SupplySide West.

At SupplySide West, mineral suppliers spoke to Nutritional Outlook about demands for higher purity thanks to impending USP changes, about which minerals are trending, and about an innovative new vegan iron ingredient.


Demands for Higher Purity

According to Andy Clutter, market manager at Jost Chemical Co. (St. Louis), his company continues to see increased demand for ultra-high-purity minerals. “We continue to see a bigger requirement from our U.S. customers, mirroring what’s going on in Europe,” he said.

Clutter believes that part of this demand stems from upcoming changes the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) will be making to General Chapters within The United States Pharmacopeia and The National Formulary (USP–NF). Specifically, on January 1, 2018, General Chapters for “Elemental Impurities-Limits” <232> and “Elemental Contaminants in Dietary Supplements” <2232> will become applicable to all drug products and dietary supplement finished products. By doing this, USP will be aligning these General Chapters more closely with the elemental contaminant limits recommended by The International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH), an organization that helps to facilitate the harmonization of regulatory guidelines and standards for drug products in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Once these General Chapters take effect, they will apply to any monographs published in the USP-NF as well as the USP Dietary Supplements Compendium.

In short, Clutter said, this means that supplement companies adhering to USP guidelines may face lower limits for elemental impurities such as heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, in drugs and in dietary supplements. Clutter said that Jost is seeing more demand for higher-purity ingredients “driven by what [buyers] perceive not only to be the needs of the marketplace but also the regulations that are going to come down.”

He also pointed out that not all mineral-ingredient suppliers can supply very-high-purity mineral salts. Jost, he said, “is already there with our products,” such as the company’s Ultra Pure line, which guarantees “extremely low levels” of heavy metals. According to the firm: “While the USP and FCC have established limits for these metals, we found that many applications demand an ever lower content. That’s why Jost tests for a host of additional critical impurities beyond the USP/FCC monographs. With a maximum of 1 ppm for Pb, As, and Cd, and a maximum of 0.1 ppm for Hg, Ultra Pure products also meet European Regulation 231/2012 and the expected ICH and USP elemental impurity guidelines.”

As for supplier Albion Minerals (Clearfield, UT), acquired this year by Balchem Corp., Stephen Ashmead, senior fellow, chelates research & development, said, “There’s always been demand for higher purity throughout the years. I think that demand will always be there and always be increasing. At least for us, it’s nothing new to see that growing out, and we’ve been able to deliver.”


Trending Minerals

Show suppliers also talked about which minerals are most in demand.

Clutter said that Jost is seeing more requests for zinc, mirroring the rising interest in zinc that other suppliers say they are seeing now. “We’ve spent the last two years expanding our portfolio of zinc salts,” he said. “So I’d say that’s where our growth has been, in zinc products.” Jost’s offerings include low-lead, high-purity zinc ingredients.

Zinc is also a top seller for Albion. Ashmead pointed out that zinc deficiency may be as prevalent as iron deficiency because zinc and iron come from the same food sources-food sources that people aren’t getting enough of. As such, he said, “Anywhere you see iron deficiency, you’re going to see zinc deficiency.”

One challenge for zinc, however, is that “clean clinical markers” don’t exist with which to measure zinc deficiency as they do for measuring iron deficiency. “With iron deficiency, you can easily test hemoglobin or ferritin,” Ashmead said. “You just don’t have the medical tests to do the same quick and easy test for zinc deficiency.”

Should that change, he said, zinc could become an even higher-priority nutrient in the supplements world. “I really think zinc is there. There just has to be a test to say, ‘Yeah, you’re zinc deficient.’ That will take some time to develop, but I think there’s a lot” that zinc can do, as evidenced by research growing around zinc’s role in eye health and brain health, two primary concerns for dietary supplement shoppers. “I think we’re just really tapping into what some of the real capabilities of zinc are,” he said.

Other than zinc, both Albion and Jost say that demand for magnesium is still very strong.

“I still think magnesium is going to be the mineral to watch in 2017,” said Ashmead. “I don’t see that changing, at least right now. If you look at the market trends, calcium is still the 800-lb gorilla, but it’s losing importance, and that’s being gained by magnesium. So I don’t see magnesium sales flattening out. In my opinion, they will still go up for at least a couple of years.”

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.”


Also read:

Is Zinc’s Day Finally Here?

Minerals Research Update: Metabolic Health, Fertility, and Heart Health


Jennifer Grebow
Nutritional Outlook magazine