July 18, 2005

9 Min Read
Healthy Fats Enhance Functional Foods

Healthy Fats Enhance Functional Foods
byJenifer Hunt

Hippocrates advised, Let food by thy medicine and medicinethy food, two millennia before the first processed functional food waslaunched. An updated interpretation of current food trends makes this tenant asrelevant as the day it was coined.

The functional foods industry is growing at a rapid rate,propelled by scientific research demonstrating the link between diet and diseaseprevention, recent government-approved health claims for select foods andongoing media coverage linking diet and health. More than ever, mainstreamconsumers feel entitled to so-called functionality in their foods, and arewilling to upgrade their food choices to gain specific health benefits. This hasprimed the industry to see double-digit growth rates that are anticipated tosurpass that of the overall food industry from 2002 to 2007, according to areport by Business Communications Co. Inc. (www.bccresearch.com).

Consumers are overwhelmingly aware and accepting offunctional foods and are doing more to incorporate them into their diets, according to market research conducted by Axiom Research inCambridge, Mass., for the International Food Information Council. A 2004 surveyby Mintel reported the majority of Americans (56 percent) agree that eating wellis a better strategy for preventing health problems than taking medications. Productsegments enjoying sustained growth are those that offer benefits withoutrequiring a whole new way of eating, said Michael Langenborg, vice presidentof marketing at Spectrum Organic Products.

A parallel shift is taking place regarding consumer attitudestoward dietary fat. Fat is no longer a four-letter word, due tomedia coverage of updated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines forincreased intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and the qualified health claimfor reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) issued by the Food and DrugAdministration (FDA) for dietary supplements and conventional foods containingthe omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid(DHA), found in oily fish such as salmon, lake trout, tuna and herring.

This new qualified health claim for omega-3 fatty acidsshould help consumers as they work to improve their health by identifying foodsthat contain these important compounds, said Lester M. Crawford, actingcommissioner of the FDA.

Concurrent demand for functional foods and EFAs makes thispairing an obvious choice for food manufacturers. This is a good time formanufacturers of functional foods to offer products supplemented with EFAsbecause functional foods provide convenient ways for consumers to take thesenutrients, said David Chance, sales and marketing manager at Sanmark Ltd.

EFA supplementation benefits several health conditions,including heart health (cholesterol, blood pressure), arthritis and other formsof inflammatory disease, diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, mental health andcognitive development, obesity, skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis),premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause and digestive problems (irritable bowel,Crohns disease, constipation). In addition, Linda Pizzey, president of PizzeysMilling, noted, Certain neurological and cognitive functions and skin healthcan be positively affected by the addition of EFAs to the diet.

EFAs have a unique chemical structure and contain more thanone unsaturated carbon, resulting in many double bonds. Omega-3 EFAs have theirfirst double bond three carbons from the molecules acid tail; omega-6 EFAshave their first double bond six spots up the tail. In the omega-3 family, EFAsinclude alpha linoleic acid (ALA), EPA and DHA. The omega-6 EFAs are linoleicacid (LA), arachidonic acid (AA) and gamma linoleic acid (GLA).

The primary omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, is found in abundance indeep-, cold-water fish, as well as in flaxseed, hemp and perilla oils. Fish oils primarily provide long-chain polyunsaturated fattyacids (LC-PUFAs), while vegetable sources of omega-3 tend to provide short-chainPUFAs. Flaxseed can deliver omega-3 EPA, and omega-3 DHA can be sourced fromfish (which also contains EPA) or marine micro algae. Vegetable oils such asflaxseed, black currant and borage supply considerable amounts of omega-6 LA. Inaddition, black currant, borage and evening primrose oils are rich dietarysources of GLA. Another popular beneficial fat is CLA, a derivative of theomega-6 LA commercially produced through the manufacturing of sunflower orsafflower.

[EFAs] is a real growth market, but if functional food anddrinks are going to become true lifestyle products, they must offer more toconsumers, said Datamonitor market analyst Andrew Russell. As well asdefinite health benefits, they must meet consumers two other main criteriatheymust taste good and be convenient to include in the daily routine.

To address issues of potency, taste and convenience,manufacturers must overcome formulation challenges and are looking to suppliersto provide solutions.

Counteracting oxidation and rancidity is a major issue whenformulating with EFAs because they may negatively affect flavor, eliminatehealth benefits and cause damaging free-radical formation. Due to theoxidative instability of these acids, care must betaken to ensure they do not oxidize during processing or during the shelf lifeof the product, said Rubin Abril, director of product development at MartekBiosciences.

LC-PUFAs, such as those found in fish oil, tend to be unstableand oxidize more quickly than shorter chain PUFAs, such as those found in flax.But even vegetable-sourced fats are prone to oxidation. Because of their highsusceptibility to oxidation, nutritional fats must be carefully protected withantioxidants or protective coatings to minimize their interaction with oxygen informulations, said Glen Pizzey, chief operating officer and vice president ofresearch and development for Pizzeys Milling.

Microencapsulation technology goes a long way to protect thedelicate structure of omega-3s from oxidation and heat. Microencapsulation alsoprolongs the release of nutrients in the intestines and limits degradation ofactive components in the stomach. A study published into the Journalof Human Nutrition & Dietetics demonstrated thebioavailability of microencapsulated fish oil was equally bioavailable as fishoil delivered in a capsule, making micro-encapsulation a sound delivery option foromega-3s.1

Like aspirin, EFAs can be enteric coated to bypass the stomachfor maximum delivery into the intestines. According to research published in DigestiveDiseases Sciences, this method showed improvedtolerance of the oils, protected against oxidation and improved stability ofEFAs in a double-blind, placebo controlled study conducted in Italy with 50 patients with Crohns disease. 2

Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, can help keep EFAsfrom becoming unstable and degrading in the presence of heat, light and oxygen.Tocopherols, vitamin C and herbal extracts such as rosemary and tea have aphenolic chemical composition that protects EFAs, Ruben said.

Choosing the appropriate EFA delivery method to achievenutritional, taste and texture goals is a primary consideration for formulators. Emulsions are particularly useful for producing beverages, andshould contain antioxidants to protect the oil as well as ingredients to preventseparation. Microencapsulated powders containing omega-3s can be quickly andevenly dispersed into bars, powder mixtures, capsules and tablets, and arepopular with manufacturers of baked goods for their dispersability, enhancedstability and flavor masking. Flour made from ALA-rich flax meal is appropriatefor an assortment of functional foods including baked goods and bars and can beused as a replacement for grain-based flours. Bioriginal Food & ScienceCorp. developed BakOmega, a flaxseed flour that can replace as muchas 20 percent of flour requirements.

Products formulated with EFAs may have a higher price tag thansimilarly marketed items. However, by targeting the needs of key demographicsand using marketing strategies, such as product differentiation, manufacturerscan overcome market resistance. Manufacturers do not resist using EFAs in products becausethey can command a higher price, differentiate the brand and offer a real upsidevalue to the consumer, Langenborg said.

Products containing intrinsic sources of EFAs (such asflax, canola, hemp, pumpkin seed, soy and walnuts) can be less expensive thanproducts enhanced with EFAs through supplementation, as with fish oils.However, consumers who demand the health benefits of DHA and EPA will pay the[higher] price to obtain their nutritional benefits, said Manny Sabares, marketing brand manager at Bioriginal Food& Sciences Corp. Most manufacturers price their EFA products at reasonableand affordable levels to their customers. But more importantly, the health benefits of EFAs justify theextra costs to both the consumer and manufacturer. Recognition of the healthbenefits by FDA and the American Heart Association (AHA) and allowing healthclaims and recommending regular consumption of EFAs reinforces consumer interestand demand.

Quality control, particularly of marine-sourced oils, is ofincreasing importance in the industry. Environmental pollutants such as PCBs, heavy metals (includingmercury and lead) and other toxins that have permeated the fish supply, arecausing consumer concern about safety. Suppliers can ensure quality control andcustomer confidence by manufacturing according to GMPs (good manufacturingpractices), adopting high standards for oil quality and by having oilsindependently tested and third-party certified.

To reach full market potential, suppliers and manufacturersshould take responsibility for educating consumers to ensure they understand andappreciate the benefits of EFAs. Advertising, promotion, investing inresearch, corroboration with major universities and health care practitioners isa great start in educating consumers about EFAs, Langenborg said. Themedia is hungry for health stories, and consequently we have a very receptiveaudience to teach.

Understanding CLA

Diet trends come and go, but conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), aderivative of the omega-6 LA, has demonstrated true staying power in a marketwhere slimming products go in and out of favor faster than reality televisioncontestants. Although study results are not conclusive, CLA has been shown instudies to aid in fat loss while maintaining lean muscle mass,3,4 something thatmany other weight loss products cannot claim. There are several companiessupplying self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) CLA ingredients foruse in a variety of functional foods applications including meal replacementsupplements, yogurts, drinks, etc. Interested companies hope CLA will succeed ingaining consumer confidence where other weight loss products have failed,especially in the current climate where obesity dominates media headlines,consumers are increasingly confused about how to achieve health and weight lossobjectives, and dieters admit to employing unhealthy eating behaviors to loseweight.5

Companies are taking measures to advance the public awarenessof CLA and its health benefits. Lipid Nutrition, the supplier of Clarinol® CLA,produced a marketing campaign in 2003 hosted by celebrity fitness instructorGreg Isaac, while Cognis (the supplier of Tonalin® CLA) launched a globalpublic relations campaign that included print advertising, direct mailmarketing, point-of-purchase displays and a New York radio campaign.

We see CLA-based drinks as a trend for the future,following in the success of pro- and prebiotic drinks and omega-3s, and expectseveral product launches in Europe, said Jurgen Gierke, marketing manager ofbeverages at Cognis in Germany.

July 18, 2005 - HSR: Health Supplement Retailer
"Healthy Fats Enhance Functional Foods" References

1. Morrissey PA et al. "Use of microencapsulated fishoil as a means of increasing n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake." JHum Nutrit and Diet, 12, 4:265-271, 1999. www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/jhn/12/4

2. Belluzzi A et al. "Effects of new fish oil derivative on fatty acidphosphlipid-membrane pattern in a group of Crohn's disease patients." DigDis Sci, 39, 12:2589-2594, 1994

3. Wang YW et al. "Conjugated linoleic acid and obesity control:efficacy and mechanisms." International Journal of Obesity,28,8:941-955, 2004. www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n8/abs/0802641a.html

4. Kamphius M et al. "The effect of conjugated linoleic acidsupplementation after weight loss on body weight regain, body composition, andresting metabolic rate in overweight subjects." International Journal ofObesity, 27, 7:840-847, 2003. www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v27/n7/abs/0802304a.html

5. "Fitting Dietary Fat into a Healthful Diet-A Consumer Point ofView." International Food Information Council, Feb. 2005. www.ific.org

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