Food Processors Target Women's Heart Health

Heart disease kills several million women each year, but food processors are targeting it in the campaign to enhance women’s heart health.

By Jennifer LeClaire

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Ingredients For Heart Health
by Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

The pipeline for heart-healthy ingredients holds many that are particularly effective for women. Here are three to watch.

• Green tea / epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)  
Evidence shows EGCG, derived from green tea can, significantly reduce chances of heart disease. Glendale, Calif.-based Nestlé USA uses EGCG with caffeine in Enviga – a beverage targeted towards women. DSM Nutritional Products (, Parsippany, NJ, offers Teavigo EGCG (minimum 90% purified) for formulating products without the astringency of other EGCG preparations.

• Cocoa and Epicatechin.
Epicatechin, a flavanol found in cocoa, helps reduce risk of stroke and heart failure by helping blood vessels relax and improving blood flow. Processors often remove the flavanol from cocoa because of its bitter taste. Jŏcalat, an-organic chocolate food bar by Denver, Colo.-based Humm Foods Inc.’s Lärabar (, balanced the epicatechin with natural fruit sweeteners. The bar also is an excellent source of fiber and omega oils, also important to cardiovascular health.

• Soy and isoflavones
Soy derivatives are a mainstay in heart-healthy products. Women's risk of developing heart disease escalates at menopause, when the body slows producing estrogen, which protects the heart. Augmenting estrogen could help. Soy’s natural estrogen analogs   genistein, daidzein, equol, and glycitein   all work through distinct mechanisms to improve the serum-cholesterol profile. Minneapolis-based French Meadows Bakery Inc. packs 32mg of soy isoflavones per slice in its Sprouted Woman's Bread with Soy Isoflavones. A non-soy, allergen-free form of genistein, Bonistein, is available from DSM. Research shows it supports natural processes that alleviate menopausal symptoms.


Fiber’s Role
Formulating with soluble fibers (such as beta-glucan from oats or psyllium) has become a leading industry trend toward adding a heart-healthy claim. The concept readily extends to other blends tailored to products for women. One soluble fiber seeing increasing use is inulin, from chicory root and artichokes. Inulin is prized for its properties as a fat substitute, carbohydrate replacement, flavor modulator and shelf-life extender.

Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. ( created two beverage blend product concepts combining calcium with its Oliggo-Fiber inulin. “Women tend to not get enough fiber, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids in their diets, so foods with these ingredients can help address shortfalls,” notes Cathy Kapica, PhD, RD, vice president of global health and wellness for Ketchum Inc. (

Beneo inulin and oligofructose system, by Orafti Active Food Ingredients (, Malvern, Pa., is being used in a growing number of successful products targeting the ticker. Anne Franck, Ph.D., Orafti's executive vice president of science and technology, points to a new study on atherosclerosis suggesting the proven benefits delivered by inulin and oligofructose extend to heart health. “While further research is needed,” she adds, “these results support evidence from clinical trials that inulin and oligofructose can modulate cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood.”

NutriSystem Inc., Horsham, Pa., ( designed its NutriSystem Advanced Women’s Program with foods that include its proprietary OmegaSol ingredient system. OmegaSol combines 40mg of EPA and DHA omega-3s with heart healthy soluble fiber. The fiber also increases satiety while masking any negative taste of fish oil.

The Plants Have It
Botanicals, too, have a firm place in heart-healthy formulations. Wild Flavors provides naturally derived flavorants and nutraceutical ingredients for the food and beverage industry. WILD created its innovative NET Turmeric and NET Curcumin, nanoencapsulated extracts demonstrating advancements in light and heat stability. Not only does the nanotechnology increase the longevity of colors in formulations, the compounds have shown strong antioxidant effects. Curcumin, especially, is known as an anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic compound. Both ingredients also have shown anti-microbial properties.

Resveratrol, found in red fruits such as mulberries and grapes, is a natural phytochemical ideal for formulations aimed at women’s health. In addition to its anticarcinogen properties, it may help reduce cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. It also has been shown to counteract osteoporosis, the inflammatory process and viral proliferation. These processes all are related to heart disease and cancer.

Resveratrol has been used by processors in mainstream products for several years, for example, Kellogg Co. (, Battle Creek. Mich., uses Fresno, Calif.-based San Joaquin Valley Concentrates’ ( ActiVin grapeseed extract in some of its Kashi line of cereals and snacks. ActiVin is a GRAS-affirmed, water-soluble powder that can be added to the liquid portion of a food or beverage, or as a powder for dry-blending. It’s stable to heat, especially processes used in baking.

Folate is another ingredient associated with women’s health to the extent its inclusion in flour and baked products became an industry standard. Not only does it help prevent neural tube defects in fetuses, increased consumption of folate may reduce the risk of breast cancer by 44 per cent, says a new study from Sweden. But folate also regulates calcium, making it a boon for heart health as well.

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