An estimated 102.3 million American adults have total blood cholesterol values of 200mg/dL or higher according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, conducted by the CDC/National Center for Health Statistics, Atlanta. Adults with total cholesterol levels of 200 to 239mg/dL are considered at high risk (borderline) for heart disease, while those with levels of 240mg/dL, or greater, are at high risk.

Statin drugs, such as lovastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin, effectively reduce cholesterol levels. However, recent concerns over the impact of these prescription medications on muscle tissue (including the heart) and on the liver have increased consumer interest in alternatives. This has led one supplier to look at ways to help manufacturers provide options.

“We do business a bit differently for an ingredient company, in that we focus on what drives consumers,” says Steve Snyder, director, sales and marketing with Cargill Health and Food Technologies, Wayzata, Minn. “This guides us both in how to expand the applications for existing ingredients and, also, as to which new ingredients we should offer.” This philosophy has led Cargill to market a line of phytosterols and phytosterol esters.

From 1991 to 1999, the percent of men in the U.S. that have been told they have high blood pressure has increased.
Plant phytosterols are found in nuts, seeds and plant oils. A profusion of research supports their cholesterol-lowering ability. Beta-sitosterol, the most abundant phytosterol, was prescribed as the drug of choice for this purpose several decades ago. The compounds compete with cholesterol molecules for gastrointestinal absorption and, thus, have the most significant effect when dietary cholesterol levels are high. Twice per day consumption of 0.40g phytosterols or 0.65g phytosterol esters has been shown to lower total cholesterol levels and LDL choles-terol levels by up to 10% (Weststrate, J.A. and G.W. Meiger. European J. ofClinical Nutr., 1998).

Phytosterol ingredients work well in dairy-based products, phytosterol esters in fat-based products.
Phytosterols have been used in spreads for the last several years. Cargill's ingredients are self-affirmed GRAS for use in vegetable oil spreads and dressings, and, also, in nutritional bars and yogurt-type products. “We think beverages may be a better application than fat-based spreads,” states Snyder. It may be easier for U.S. consumers to see the connection between healthy beverages and lower cholesterol levels.

While phytosterols have a white granular appearance and melt in the 135º to 145º C range, phytosterol esters are a translucent wax and melt at the much lower range of 14º to 28º C.

The properties of phytosterol esters make them most applicable for use in oil-and fat-based systems such as margarines and salad dressings, according to Vince Sciacca, sales development manager. Free phytosterols work well for other applications such as dairy and cereal products. “We also have an emulsified phytosterol under development for use in beverages.”

Other products offered by Cargill include Oliggo-Fiber™ inulin, trehalose, CS90+ chondroitin sulfate, AdvantaSoy™ Complete™ and AdvantaSoy™ Clear™ isoflavones.

“We don't want to have just the latest trendy ingredient, we want to provide consumers—through their diet— the right, good-tasting, convenient product backed by the right science and consumer insight,” concludes Snyder.

For more information:
Steve Snyder at 952-742-6562
Cargill Health and Food Technologies Write in 22