DSM’s Bonistein, a purified genestein (a well-studied soy isoflavone), functions on multiple levels, and short-term as well as long term. On one hand, it helps promote bone and joint health, but it also targets reduction of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Some ingredients are straining at the gate as they await approval for use beyond supplements. Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant critical to the conversion of food to energy, is synthesized in every cell and has become a common supplement over recent years, targeting heart health and long-term energy. New GRAS status and increased availability will make this ingredient one to watch for food and beverage processing in the next year or two.
Lipogen Ltd. (www.lipogen.co.il). makes phosphotidylserine — a functional constituent of brain membranes important for neural development and function — from lecithin. Lipogen is now bringing its phosphatidylserine (PS) ingredient to functional dairy products, targeting brain development for infants, memory and cognition for adults and seniors, and antidementia support for the elderly.
In the early 1940s, truckloads of spinach were hauled into the chemistry department at the University of Texas. Scientists concentrated the mass of foliage to extract a compound they would name folic acid — a B vitamin now recognized as critical to growth, development, heart health and the prevention of neural tube defects in developing infants.
Lycopene, a carotenoid from tomatoes, nearly won an FDA health claim for its role in preventing prostate cancer. Now it’s being studied for enhancing skin quality and eye health.
Today, the application of phytochemicals, those nutraceutical treasures derived mostly from plants, is being re-energized by an endless quest to discover more unknown ones, while delving deeper into the benefits of known ones.
This redoubling of research into phytochemicals is driving the interest in food ingredients aimed at specific areas of nutrition-related health.
Many beneficial ingredients derived from plants can negatively influence flavor, such as through bitterness. Nanoencapsulation, which facilitated the popularity of omega oils and some antioxidants via added solubility, also helps contain any off-flavors or colors from botanical compounds. It also protects plant-derived ingredients, which often are more susceptible to breakdown from the extreme conditions often involved in processing.
On the fringe
Another area where botanical ingredients are figuring large is the emerging “beauty from within” category. Certain antioxidants are being promoted for enhancing skin quality through ultraviolet light protection. Lycopene, a carotenoid from tomatoes that is largely associated with protection from cancers (especially prostate cancer) is one such antioxidant. The trend is further along in Europe and Asia, but making inroads here.
“In the U.S., some products already are in the market and some are still in planning,” says Zohar Nir, vice president of new product development and scientific affairs for LycoRed Corp.(www.lycored.com), Orange, N.J. “The evidence of therapeutical efficacy is strong — we have over 40 clinical studies on our Lyc-o-Mato lycopene and its formulations.”
Lycopene is in the class of carotenoid compounds being marketed for their eye health properties, as is lutein. While the preponderance of carotenoid and eye health research concerns protection against cataracts and macular degeneration, new research revealed lutein’s ability to protect against the affects of glare. For the growing demographic of outdoor activity-obsessed baby boomers, this could prove a growth area in nutraceuticals.
“The new visual performance benefits promise not only tremendous gains for drivers, sports enthusiasts and anyone spending time outdoors such as skiers, golfers, cyclists and pilots, but also for those millions who suffer from overexposure to fluorescent lights, computer monitors and other harsh indoor lighting,” says DSM’s marketing manager Aparna Parikh. DSM provides Floraglo and Optisharp lutein compounds.
Nanoencapsulation also recently widened application of another hot ingredient: probiotics. Bakery products, dairy foods, and ready-to-eat meals are closing the botanical gap with the advent of “live” ingredients that can survive extrusion and high heat processing.
As we go into the last year of the first decade of the 21st century, functional ingredients will only continue to increase their influence on food and beverage processing. “Food and beverage companies have a wonderful opportunity to significantly increase the value of their brands to consumers by adding nutrients to their products and related end-benefit information to the communications for those brands,” says DSM’s Berman.