Ingredients for Energy and Immunity

One of the hottest trends is designing and marketing foods and beverages promising quick fixes to our energy- and health-deprived society.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

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Studies show certain nutrients have significant modulating effect on our immune system. MD Drinks Inc.'s Function House Call contains two such modulators - cell-wall B-glucan and chlorella - in a stable micro-emulsion antioxidant base of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine), rounded off with honey and green tea for health and taste.

Beta-glucan, a polysaccharide found naturally in certain bacteria, mushrooms and oats, "amplifies the readiness" of the immune system and helps it focus on relevant threats. Polysaccharides with similar function are also found in Chlorella, nutrient-packed, single-celled green algae.

Minneapolis-based Biothera's ( Wellmune WGP is a yeast-derived, pattern-recognition beta-glucan that activates macrophages and neutrophils (human immune cells) to rapidly recognize and kill foreign challenges. The GRAS-approved, GMO-free, kosher and nonallergenic Wellmune WGP has the added benefit of pleasant sensory qualities and is available as a soluble and insoluble glucopolysaccharide powder for ease of formulation in a wide range of foods and beverages.

"Mainstream processors are realizing the growing importance of immunity with consumers," says Rich Mueller, president and CEO of Biothera. "The new focus is on ingredients that work with the immune system and are backed by credible science and which can be formulated into foods and beverages that are consumed every day on the ‘daily dose' principle."

Read More on Biothera's Wellmune WGP



"Micro-encapsulation technology is enabling innovative ingredient solutions for complex formulations," notes Cecilia McCollum, vice president of ingredient manufacturer Blue California (, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. "Micro-encapsulated, water-soluble ingredients are significantly different from other water-soluble forms. They do not use emulsifiers which cloud solutions. Also, microencapsulation can cluster several ingredients and stagger their release, while protecting them and making them more bioavailable." Emulsions are unstable by nature and tend to separate.

Bacterial defense

The human digestive tract contains many varieties of bacteria that help maintain a healthy intestinal system, aid digestion, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Depletion of the intestinal flora weakens the body's natural defenses.

Dannon, Tarrytown, N.Y., ( created DanActive, a probiotic drink clinically proven to replenish the gut flora and help strengthen the body's defense system. DanActive contains Lactobacillus casei immunitas (a culture exclusive to Dannon), Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus cultures. These probiotics were designed for superior digestive and regularity health benefits.

Clearly consumers buy in - they pay as much as two- to three-times the price of similar mainstream products. Probiotic supplier Chr. Hansen Ltd. (, Milwaukee, follows this practice, marketing its cultures under such monikers as BB-12, LA-5, RC-14 and GR-1 as probiotic ingredients for manufacturers of dairy products and dietary supplements.

Dannon subsidiary and maker of functional yogurts, Stonyfield Farm (, Londonderry, N.H., incorporates six live, active cultures to help replenish gut flora. Stonyfield claims it makes the only U.S. yogurt containing Lactobacillus reuteri, a species that naturally inhabits the gut of mammals and clinically proven to boost immunity and enhance digestive health.

Danisco, Overland Park, Kan., (, created Howaru - a strategically branded probiotic culture available frozen or freeze-dried in concentrates or as customized formulas for food and beverage applications. Purity Dairies Inc. (, Nashville, Tenn., makes its 1 percent Sweet Acidophilus Milk with Howaru acidophilus and bifidobacterium bacteria. Danisco also supplies Howaru probiotic cultures to Atlanta-based Freshëns Quality Brands ( for its yogurt line and Howaru culture-based immunity boosters for smoothies in their retail stores.

Read More on HOWARU

Howaru Acidophilus includes Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM - probiotic strains shown to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract and have which possess extraordinary adherence to intestinal mucosa. "Howaru Bifido" is Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 and Howaru Rhamnosus is Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001. Known specifically for their immunomodulating properties, their efficacy has been confirmed in human studies in several countries. Results of these studies show improved immune function due to the consumption of Howaru Bifido and Howaru Rhamnosus may reduce the risk of different types of enteritis and non-gastro-intestinal diseases and enhance the body's natural immune response, especially in the elderly.

Kraft added probiotics to its LiveActive Cheese Sticks and Cheese Cubes with probiotics. Eugene, Ore.-based Nancy's Naturally Cultured Low Fat Organic Kefir is made with  organic milk from small family farms with grass fed cows and offers billions of probiotic cultures in every sip. The kefir is sweetened with organic agave nectar - a naturally low glycemic index sweetener - and contains organic inulin.

General Mills Inc. (, Minneapolis, incorporates Optibalance - a blend of probiotic cultures and natural fibers for immunity and digestive health - in its Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt and Go-Gurt Fizzix fizzy yogurt snacks.

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