Plant Sterols in Functional Drinks
High blood cholesterol is a main risk factor of coronary heart disease, causing about one-third of all cases. Strategies for improving heart health include reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake; increasing intake of soluble fiber; reducing weight, if overweight; increasing physical activity; controlling high blood pressure; quitting smoking; and adding cholesterol-lowering food products to the diet (for example, those containing plant sterols).

Plant sterols work by competing with cholesterol in the micelles for transportation and absorption. Reduced cholesterol absorption leads to lower blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL. Only a fraction of plant sterols are absorbed by humans. “Combined with a healthy diet, phytosterols at 1-3g per day help lower total cholesterol and LDL by up to 15%,” explained David Cai, principal scientist and research manager, Cognis Nutrition and Health, during a speech titled, “Application of Plant Sterols in Functional Drinks.”

In the U.S., an FDA-approved health claim allows the following statements to be made on foods containing plant sterols. “Foods containing at least 0.65g per serving of vegetable oil sterol esters (or 0.4g sterols), eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 1.3g (or 0.8g sterols), as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

In Europe, there is a $650 million-plus market for cholesterol-lowering products, while the U.S. market was at only $80 million plus retail sales in 2006. The reason for the poorer performance in the U.S. is a lack of consumer awareness, possibly because U.S. food manufacturers do not as actively provide consumer education. Also, in the E.U., innovative packaging has been a factor.

Available on the market are a variety of user-friendly sterol product choices for different applications. Sterols and sterol esters with various fatty acids, water-dispersible powders with sterols or sterol esters, water-dispersible powders with different sterol contents and ready-to-use liquid emulsion systems are possibilities.

Plant sterols have a very low sensory impact, with a bland taste. Free sterols can impart a chalky or gritty mouthfeel, but sterol esters can enhance mouthfeel by providing richness. If packaged properly, sterol esters are oxidative-stable. Homogenization is recommended to ensure dispersion stability. They are not affected by heat, pH, light, pressure or pasteurization.

“A relatively low usage level is required to attain the FDA health claim,” Cai explained. Sterol esters require heating prior to use to ~110°F. Powders benefit, if dry blended with other dry ingredients. The manufacturer must list in the ingredient statement any carriers contained in the ingredient (e.g., sodium caseinate or gum Arabic). The use of free sterols often requires special processing or emulsifiers.

Adding free plant sterols to beverages, without using emulsifiers or high-shear homogenization at high temperatures, may result in lumps and large crystals. The product’s effectiveness could then be compromised, because the cholesterol-lowering efficacy of free plant sterols depends on their crystal size and dispersion. Plant sterols are water-insoluble and indispersible without emulsifiers, but can be water-dispersible, if blended with emulsifiers up to 90% sterol content in ready-to-use drinks.

Functional drink solutions are available for great-tasting products with health benefits. One example is an açai fruit juice beverage with 400mg plant sterols per serving and 15mg natural vitamin E. This product is attractive to the consumer as an easy way to improve heart health.

“Application of Plant Sterols in Functional Drinks,” David Cai, principal scientist and research manager, Cognis Nutrition and Health,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Functional Ingredients and Pre-mixes

The production of herbal extracts begins with the removal of an ingredient from leaves, roots, rhizomes, bark, fruit and seeds using a solvent, water or alcohol. Multiple constituents are extracted. Afterwards, distillation removes the solvent. It is then dried either in an oven or spray-dried. What is left is a soft crude, soft extract, native extract, oleoresin or paste.

Standardization is done to create consistency of the marker compound--for example, 0.3% hypericins, 0.8% valerinic acids or 5% ginsenosides. But with concentration ratios, for instance, 4:1, 100:1 or 50lbs ginko yields 1lb extract, these values normally do not claim activity and cannot be verified, said Emilio Gutierrez R., Ph.D, vice president of technical services, BI Nutraceuticals, during a speech titled, “Functional Food Ingredients and Pre-mixes...A How-to Guide.”

Whether used for capsules, tablets, beverages or foods, one consistent manufacturing challenge is that the product must flow. Flow is dependent on particle size, with products at <60 mesh having good flow and not generally affected by particle shape. At 80-100 mesh, flow can become a problem, because the greater surface area of the particles creates more surface forces (static). And at >100 mesh, flow is most likely a problem.

Flow can be improved by decreasing moisture, changing particle size or shape by milling and granulating, eliminating fibers and dust particles or mixing with flow agents like silicon dioxide. By coating a particle, its properties can change, making it glide, flow or compress more easily. A powder blend should have good compressibility, sufficient hardness for a tablet to disintegrate, good flow and weight control, along with homogeneity for content uniformity.

Granulation is done to change physical properties, compressibility, particle size, surface area, hardness, density or dispersibility. Granulation also can control dust flow, produce uniform blends, mask unpleasant tastes or odors, and control release of actives. It is also useful to deliver a small quantity of an active ingredient via trituration. Additionally, granulation reduces production costs.

The choice and method of granulation depend on the size of the dose as a percent of the total formula, solubility, hygroscopicity, compressibility, stability and susceptibility to heat and moisture. Wet granulation forms agglomerates of smaller particles. This is ideal, if the active ingredient is not compressible on its own or suffers from poor flow. Wet granulation is also a good idea, if the active ingredient is a large percentage of the total formula and not much room is left for functional excipient.

Agglomeration has its advantages in drying and granulating in one step. It is faster, cheaper and more reproducible, if done correctly. However, there is a long process development time, more operator training is required, it is expensive to maintain and not ideal for all products. Agglomeration produces more soluble hollow granules with lower density.

Microencapsulation is a process using inert coatings for masking flavors and controlled release of substances. The release of active substances in microencapsulated products can be done by osmotics, where a membrane allows water into the granule. As pressure builds, it swells, and, eventually, the walls crack open, releasing the active substance. Delayed release provides a steady state concentration, better bioavailability, less potential for toxicity, better patient/consumer compliance, a competitive advantage and a point of differentiation.

Challenges in the dietary supplement industry include the viewpoint “the greener the better.” Excipients that sound like chemicals are avoided. Active raw materials are often non-user friendly, picking up moisture, flowing poorly and not compressing properly.

“Functional Food Ingredients and Pre-mixes...A How-to Guide,” Emilio Gutierrez R., Ph.D, vice president of technical services, BI Nutraceuticals,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Emulsions and Encapsulation Technology

Emulsions are colloidal suspensions, consisting of an immiscible liquid dispersed and held in another liquid by emulsifiers or surfactants. Hydrophile-lipophile balance (HLB) is a classification scheme for surfactant properties. A lower HLB tends to be more oil-soluble, where a higher HLB is more water-soluble.

Emulsions appear as milky-white, opaque solutions, when droplets are larger than 0.3µm, as they scatter the incident visible light. Gray translucent solutions form with droplets having diameters between 0.1-0.3µm, due to droplets not being able to scatter the entire spectrum of visible light. Transparent solutions, known as microemulsions, occur when droplets are smaller than 0.1µm in diameter and are too small to scatter any component of visible light, explained Maureen Akins, lead scientist, TIC Gums Inc., in a speech titled, “Emulsions and Encapsulation Technology.”

Emulsion stability is affected by gravitational separation, flocculation, coalescence and phase separation. Gravitational separation can be minimized by reducing density difference between the oil and water, decreasing droplet size and increasing continuous phase viscosity. Flocculation occurs when colloid interaction is out of balance. Droplets can be attracted to each other through van der Waals forces or hydrophobic bonds, which cause depletion or bridging of droplets. Droplets can also be repulsed by electrostatic or steric forces, or hydration.

Droplet coalescence happens with aggregation, due to fusing together of two or more individual droplets to form a bigger droplet, eventually leading to oiling off. Ostwald ripening refers to the growth of large droplets at the expense of small droplets, due to molecular diffusion of the oil molecules through the aqueous phase driven by a difference in Laplace pressure.

Functional ingredients in beverage emulsions include stabilizers, emulsifiers, weighting agents and viscosifiers. A modified gum Acacia, which is formed by the esterification of octenyl succinic anhydride to the polysaccharide portion of the Acacia molecule, reduces surface tension. During flavor emulsion formulation, preparation of the oil phase includes dissolution of weighting agent in the oil (flavored oil or vegetable oil) to achieve the desired density (weighted oil). This generally takes about one hour. Preparation of the aqueous phase involves dissolution and hydration of the gum (hydrocolloid) in warm water under medium agitation, avoiding foam, for 4-8 hours. A coarse emulsion formulation requires addition of the oil phase to the aqueous phase under agitation followed by shear mixing for 10-15mins. Fine emulsion preparation can be achieved via twice homogenizing the coarse emulsion at 3,500/500psi.

Flavor encapsulation is a means for compounds to be enclosed in a carrier matrix. The enclosed material is usually liquid, but could be solid or gas. Advantages of encapsulation are improved chemical stability of flavor compounds by reducing reactivity of the core with the outside environment (water and oxygen). There is also a decreased transfer rate of core material to outside environment, providing flavor release to achieve the proper delay time. Encapsulation also creates dry, free-flowing products for better handling and shipping. Encapsulation can be achieved by a variety of processes and can use various wall materials for different functions and properties. The shelflife of encapsulated flavors depends on the stability of wall materials to oxidation and release rate.

Spray-drying as a process for encapsulation has the advantages of low operating cost, high-quality capsules, rapid solubility, small size and high stability. Disadvantages are that the capsules are not uniform, there is a limitation in choice of wall material, and it produces a very fine powder that needs further processing. It is not good for heat-sensitive material.

“Emulsions and Encapsulation Technology,” Maureen Akins, M.S., lead scientist, TIC Gums Inc.,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Functional Ingredients in Beverages

Many additional ingredients exist for the nutritional enhancement of beverages. Bone health, heart health, sustained energy, antioxidants, recovery, beauty from within, cognitive ability and digestive health all can be addressed through nutritional enhancement. Some ingredients that can be used in beverages include probiotics, vitamins, minerals, lycopene, etc.

Probiotics are popular, but there can be survival issues, said Rodger Jonas, national business development manager, PL Thomas Inc., in a speech titled, “Functional Ingredients for Beverage Development.” For example, common processing steps mean probiotics may be subjected to heat treatments such as boiling water, HTST for 22 seconds, baking at 350°F for 20 minutes, extrusion, pelleting and freezing. Not all probiotics can survive.

However, one proprietary gram-positive, spore-forming rod called Bacillus coagulans can survive processing steps that kill other probiotics. Once activated, it germinates and proliferates throughout the intestine, hindering the growth of numerous bacterial and fungal pathogens. B. coagulans, in particular, has significantly superior survival rates to other probiotics, says Jonas. For example, only 1% of the bacteria in the leading brand of refrigerated, yogurt-based probiotic survive the gastric environment. In contrast, up to 78% of B. coagulans survives to colonize the gut.

Other potential health-beneficial fortifiers include vitamin K2, which, when consumed at 45mcg daily, contributes to a 50% reduction in arterial calcification, 50% reduction of cardiovascular death and 25% reduction in mortality of all causes (as compared to low intake of dietary K2), notes Jonas. Also, lycopene, a natural colorant, is an antioxidant-rich carotenoid found in tomatoes. Lycopene comes in handy with increased scrutiny on labeling of insect-derived red colorant additives, like carmine and cochinea. There is also strong clinical support and a qualified health claim for lycopene against prostate cancer and evidence of its reducing blood pressure.

Oral antioxidants work from the inside out for protection against the sun, or in skin-protective nutricosmetics. Collagen and elastin in the skin degenerate with age, setting the stage for the appearance of wrinkles, creases, folds and furrows. Nutrients can protect the skin by inhibiting inflammation, as well as cellular and DNA damage caused by excess free radicals (oxidative stress). Antioxidants also preferentially absorb harmful UV rays, as well as nourish and strengthen collagen and elastin bonds.

There are several factors playing a role in elastin degradation, but a consistent feature is that the elastic fibers are prone to calcification. The presence of calcium salt crystals induce mechanical shear during movement (stretching), which will accelerate the deterioration of the fibers. Pine bark extract was shown to promote collagen synthesis in vivo with 28 days of treatment. Hydroxypurine, the major component of collagen, was greater than placebo; the thickness of the corium layer of collagen also was greater after the treatment.

To summarize, natural vitamin K2 supports bone health, heart health and beauty within. Age is a factor that impacts what can be metabolized and what ingredients are appropriate to use. Probiotics and nutritional ingredients that survive processing are available. Shelflife should be considered when employing nutritional ingredients and probiotics.

“Functional Ingredients for Beverage Development,” Rodger Jonas, national business development manager, PL Thomas Inc.,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Sustained Energy Formulations

Although sustained energy products are not necessarily the same as those for weight management, sustained energy is often associated with a lack of hunger or increased satiety. Sustained energy can be defined as power available at length, without interruption or weakening. Sustained energy sources include a range of nutrients like fat, protein, alcohol, polyols, organic acids and carbohydrates.

Sustained energy is in high consumer demand, with surveys showing 75% of consumers being concerned about issues related to energy and vitality. Energy is the leading claimed health benefit in the U.S. functional food and drink market, with a 34.7% market share in 2006. The general energy “platform” has broad consumer appeal and unlimited opportunities, said Marion Dalacker, director, market strategies, WILD Flavors Inc., in her presentation, “Keep Going: Formulating Foods and Beverages for Sustained Energy.”

From a formulation standpoint, balancing the energy-yielding nutrients is required in order to control blood glucose response and deliver optimal flavor and texture in finished products. Often, blending nutrients--such as fibers, protein and others--into one product offers the best solution. For example, consider complex vs. simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are a quick energy source. Complex carbohydrates are a longer-term energy boost available in high- and low-fiber forms. Blending simple and complex carbohydrates in a formulation gives both an immediate and a long-lasting energy boost.

With fiber, longer digestion time and physical expansion in the stomach result in increased satiety. Fiber sources include whole grains, bran, seeds and nuts for insoluble fiber, and inulin, xanthan gum and guar gum for soluble fiber. Resistant starch, oats and flax seed provide both soluble and insoluble fibers.

Protein is not just for muscle-building and exercise recovery anymore. Increasingly, protein is associated with satiety, weight loss and sustained energy, due to slower digestion rates. Sources of protein in beverages include milk (whey and casein), soy and rice.

Other functional ingredients associated with sustained energy are B vitamins, carnitine, ginseng and natural caffeine sources like yerba mate, guarana and tea extracts, as well as antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin C.

Formulation challenges include sensory requirements, labeling criteria and ingredient functionality. Flavors and flavor modification technologies, along with texturizing agents, benefit the sensory aspects of flavor, texture and opacity/appearance. Labeling requires consideration of nutritional goals, consumer friendliness and allergen/kosher restrictions. Ingredient functionality considerations include solubility/handling, heat, light and pH stability concerns, ingredient interactions and viscosity issues.

When creating energy beverages, it is helpful to combine short- and long-term energy-boosting ingredients and use blends that optimize taste and texture to achieve consumer acceptance. While considering new beverages, convenience is still king. Last, but not least, leveraging supplier expertise can speed up development time and maximize the probability of success.

“Keep Going: Formulating Foods and Beverages for Sustained Energy,” Marion Dalacker, director, market strategies, WILD Flavors Inc.,,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor