Baby Boomer Nutrition High Priority for Food Processors

Nutrition has become baby boomers’ antidote for most of the negative effects of aging.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., Contributing Editor

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Unilever’s long-term investment in helping consumers manage their cholesterol is evident by the patents filed for processes and food and ingredient compositions comprising statins. A group of pharmaceutical compounds – atorvastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, and simvastatin – statins are used commonly to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. They work by blocking the action of a liver enzyme needed to make cholesterol. Unilever is banking that statin-enriched soybean oil will offer consumers the pleasure of fried foods without the cholesterol downside.

In terms of naturalness and simplicity, it’s hard to beat oat fiber, which has proven particularly powerful at lowering levels of LDL cholesterol. The Quaker Oats Co. (, Chicago, had the first product to receive the FDA heart-health claim: oatmeal. But the PepsiCo division is building the franchise with, among other things, its Take Heart Instant Oatmeal line.

Cereal manufacturers followed. General Mills Inc. (, Minneapolis, made heart-healthfulness a key claim for its Cheerios brand, which is made from whole grain oats. Kellogg Co. (, Battle Creek, Mich., went a step further by developing the Smart Start Healthy Heart line, which, in addition to oat bran, includes  includes psyllium fiber plus potassium.

Creaky bones
Whether it’s arthritis, osteoporosis or a number of other bone and joint issues, baby boomers learn the hard way that 50- or 60-year-old parts don’t operate as well as new ones.

Aging wears down the joint cartilage. So do physically active lifestyles and high impact sports. Nevertheless, vitality and physical activity are important for baby boomers. Marketers are taking note that some 70 million boomers and adults are affected by chronic joint inflammation, pain and stiffness.

The National Institutes of Health sponsored a clinical trial – “Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial” ( – between 2000 and 2004 that concluded the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin provided significant pain relief for sufferers of osteoarthritis. Despite that, glucosamine chondroitin failed to win an FDA health claim in 2004. Still, legions of fans take pill supplements several times a day. Supplemental glucosamine provides the building blocks for cartilage production. Chondroitin sulfate, another component of the cartilage, helps it retain water and prevents it from becoming brittle.

Cargill offers Regenasure, a self-affirmed GRAS ingredient, available as HCl glucosamine and in a sulfate version. Formulating with Regenasure is facilitated by the fact that it is highly soluble and clean tasting. The drop-in formulation is attractive to formulators as is the fact that it is shellfish allergen-free, vegetarian source and Kosher/Halal certified.

Drinks seem to be particularly good carriers of glucosamine chondroitin. The popularity of joint relief is obvious from the recent rollout of products. They include the mainstream Minute Maid Active Pure Squeezed Orange Juice from the Coca Cola Co.; to juice drink Elations from Elations Co., Cincinnati; to Fitness Water from aptly named Joint Juice Inc., San Francisco.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) similarly has been used in pill form for joint health. At the June IFT Food Expo, TandemRain Innovations, Vancouver, Wash., launched ActivMSM, what it claims is the first MSM product to have GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation for food and beverage formulations. TandemRain offers to work with food processors interested in developing ActivMSM formulations for functional foods and beverages, especially yogurt, yogurt drinks and smoothies, nutrition bars and sports drinks.

Calcium has a very important role in boomer nutrition. Understanding its role and effects are essential for ingredient selection and formulation. NutraFlora, a fructooligosaccharide ingredient primarily developed as a prebiotic (more on that later), also has the ability to significantly enhance calcium absorption, notes Trina O’Brien, marketing manager for Golden, Colo.-based GTC Nutrition (

“Natural vitamin K2 actually directs calcium to the proper place and helps build a stronger, more flexible bone,” says Rodger Jonas, vice president of technical sales at PL Thomas (, Morristown, N.J. The self-affirmed GRAS vitamin K2 brand MQ7 is credited with activating the deposition of calcium in the bones and inhibiting the calcification of vascular systems. Jonas predicts market penetration in 2009 and claims that several food product launches are planned this year with MQ7, which he says already is popular in dietary supplements.

Digestive and immune health


Spice Up Aging Taste Buds

With aging comes some degeneration of olfactory nerves and a diminished sense of smell and taste. But boomers, with broad life experiences and a greater zest for life than ever before, seek spicier, higher-flavor foods to tickle their dulled senses.

Some spices that have both nutraceutical properties and high taste impact:
> Turmeric – the super spice – and its active compound curcumin lend a beautiful yellow richness to foods and beverages and may help keep the brain young and help improve memory.
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