Better Living Through Food Chemistry

Are you familiar with guarana, yerba maté and choline? They and other performance-enhancing ingredients are providing quite a boost - for consumers and for sales of certain foods and beverages.

By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

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It seems the more research that's done, the more these ingredients are confirmed as having nutraceutical properties. Ingredient suppliers and product formulators are assisting with improvements in the taste and quality of these products.


Pay attention to the following when developing foods and beverages for performance enhancement:
  1. What are the health benefits of the phytochemical, and is it based on sound clinical research?

  2. What is the recommended dosage for the ingredient in a food product, and are there any issues from getting too much of it?

  3. What is the stability profile of the compound and does it require special storage conditions, such as low temperature or controlled humidity? If so, ensure that the plant operators know this. Improper storage of your phytochemicals can destroy them. Both you and your consumers will be paying for nothing or, worse yet, for something that can cause problems with the quality of your finished product.


During food manufacture, phytochemicals - intrinsic or added - can become more reactive and can react with other food constituents and even change in their activity levels. This means that the nutritional properties of the ingredient can change.

Dissipation during processing usually happens due to one or more of the following mechanisms:
  • Water-soluble ingredients
      (such as antioxidants) interact with proteins and other food constituents, changing glycosides and esters into free phenolic derivatives that often form complexes with metals and become essentially unavailable for their primary function. Inactivation of antioxidants with metal chelating compounds can be prevented with citric, tartaric, phosphoric or ascorbic acids - acids that form nonreactive compounds with metals and that do not react with antioxidants.

  • Fat soluble antioxidants
      (such as tocopherols) can be emulsified to accumulate the antioxidants at the water-oil interface in a mono-molecular layer oriented according to their polarity. Such a layer can protect the lipid phase from oxidation by any oxygen dissolved in the aqueous phase.

  • Pasteurization,
      an important step in the processing of many beverages, can minimize many bioactive ingredients. These losses can be compensated for by adding more of the ingredient up front or by processing under reduced pressure. Encapsulation in heat-resistant materials such as compound coating can help prevent loss in functionality of performance enhancement ingredients in heated air (during baking).

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