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 clear correlation between inulin or oligofructose and a statistically significant increase in bifidobacteria levels in the colon. Today, inulin and oligofructose are among the most widely utilized prebiotic fibers used in food and beverage formulations.

Turning to natural sources of immunity ingredients, General Mills released, under its Green Giant brand (www.greengiant.com), "Immune Boost" microwave-steamable vegetables in seasoning. The vegetables are broccoli, carrots and red and yellow sweet peppers, marketed for being "naturally rich in antioxidants vitamins A and C to help support a healthy immune system."

Botanical Basics

Cranberries were one of the first natural ingredients to be recognized for their effect on immunity, specifically in warding off urinary tract infections via anti-adhesion properties of compounds called proanthocyanidins which help protect the body from harmful bacteria.

Ocean Spray ITG released results of a new study suggesting unique cranberry compounds also may help ward off the flu. The research suggests the anti-adhesion components also prevent certain flu viruses from attaching to host cells.

Decas Botanical Synergies (www.decasbotanical.com), Carver, Mass., provides a number of cranberry- and other berry-derived ingredients under its Nutricran label targeting specific immune aspects. Examples include Nutricran GI, a gastro-intestinal health fruit powder blend shown to inhibit the H. pylori bacteria linked to ulcers, Nutricran AM flavorless and odorless antimicrobial additive to protect protein foods such as beef and fish and Nutricran AO high-antioxidant powder.

Luna Elixirs and Luna Bar (www.lunabar.com), both part of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Co.,  also emphasize immunity ingredients that are naturally derived. Luna Elixirs contains green tea extract loaded with polyphenolic antioxidants. Green tea extract was selected for its ability to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Kerry Foods (www.kerryfoods.com), Beloit, Wis., collaborated with Brattleboro, Vt.-based NutraGenesis to create Essentra, a patented, GRAS-affirmed derivative of the herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Essentra is standardized to contain glycowithanolides (8 percent), withaferin-A (2 percent), and oligosaccharides (32 percent). The oligosaccharides serve as a carrier for the glycowithanolides and withaferin-A helps maintain a consistent ingredient ratio. NutraGenesis President Suzanne McNeary said, "Essentra is shown in human research to shield the body with stress reduction, mental clarity, enhanced energy, heart health and glucose release. The Ayurvedic botanical is marketed as a highly standardized patented nutraceutical ingredient."

Kagome (www.kagome.com), Foster City, Calif., provides Lactobacillus brevis KB290, a plant-derived lactic acid bacterium for dairy beverages. The bacterium, discovered in traditional Japanese pickles, can survive in the intestines longer than the L. casei strain used in most dairy products.

Consumer demand for energy- and immunity-enhancing products will continue to surge as long as the current trends of lack of sleep, exercise, and abundant stress continue. As consumers seek foods and beverages for energy and immunity, processors are working closely with ingredient manufacturers to meet this untiring demand.


Read More on Botanicals For Energy

Paramus, N.J.-based Stella Labs (www.stellalabs.com) makes Cha'de bugre10:1 extract - with low levels of caffeine offering a powerful, clean, natural energy boost without the nervous jitters or stomach upset commonly associated with stimulants.
 Ginseng is another ingredient popular for its energy benefits. Ginseng extracts sold on the market today may contain the chemical residues of certain pesticides such as quintozene and procymidone, not permitted for use in ginseng cultivation in the U.S. or in Europe, but used widely in other countries.

Rhodiola rosea is known to increase brain energy and accelerate the recovery processes after workouts. It also stimulates muscle energy status, glycogen synthesis in muscles and liver and anabolic activity.

Botanicals are gaining rapid ground in every ingredient category. Energy and immunity are no exceptions. The educated population will increase market prospects for botanicals. Ingredient suppliers and distributors will have to communicate more diligently about the value of their fare in terms of active compound content, proven efficacy and lack of undesirable contaminants or adulterants.


Note To Marketing

Consumers seek energy products for different reasons. Understanding their motivation helps guide selection of ingredients relevant to their needs. People on weight loss or restricted calorie diets, for example, wish to counteract the effects of their negative energy balance: energy drain, reduced interest in exercising and cravings for high caloric eating episodes. Products for this audience should boost their energy without setting them back in their calorie management. Non-nutritive sweeteners aspartame and sucralose work well here especially with the fruity flavor profiles favored by this demographic - typically female and mid to older aged.


Regulatory Issues: Immunity and Energy Claims

A manufacturer must have substantiation that any immunity and energy claims appearing in the labeling and advertising of a food are not false or misleading. Failure to have adequate substantiation, at the time a claim is made, is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and/or the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FDA and the FTC require competent and reliable scientific evidence, from well-designed studies. The overall message should be substantiated, as well as any separate claims. If a claim has more than one reasonable interpretation, substantiation for each interpretation is expected.


Note To Ops

The new trend of using botanicals and bioactive ingredients in foods and beverages creates a mix of hope and trepidation for plant operators, especially the QA/QC personnel. The rules are the same - whether one is dealing with expensive bioactive ingredients or less pricey commodities:

  • Store in a cool and dry place
  • Store in airtight containers
  • Store away from light
  • Ensure ingredients are well within their expiration codes
  • Ensure all Certificates of Analyses are on file
  • Keep a copy of the Material Handling Data Sheets in the plant for easy access during emergencies.
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