Intestinal health, long a “taboo” subject, is steadily gaining recognition among consumers as an important component of overall well-being. In response, the ingredient supplier community provides a range of health-conferring ingredients with specific functional benefits for use in foods and beverages.

High Added-value Prebiotic
Larch trees are the source of a water-soluble polysaccharide produced via a patented, water-based, solvent-free, eco-friendly manufacturing process. “Larch arabinogalactan (LAG) exhibits health benefits as a soluble prebiotic fiber promoting GI health. It not only has a high digestive tolerance, but also excellent technological properties,” explained Bryan Rodriguez, technical marketing and scientific affairs manager for Lonza Inc., in his presentation, “Benefits and Applications of Larch Arabinogalactan Prebiotic Fiber.”

The long, highly branched polysaccharide of varying molecular weights is composed of galactose and arabinose in a 6:1 ratio. Its shape is a galactan backbone, with side-chains of galactose and arabinose. LAG is affirmed GRAS for use in foods, the only limitation being that its use level should be no more than needed for its intended effect; this is considered a good manufacturing practice. LAG meets FDA definition for dietary fiber as determined by the analytical method (Total Dietary Fiber AOAC Methods 985.29, 991.43). LAG contains 1.4Kcal/g, as determined by rat-feeding studies, and contains at least 90% dietary fiber.

Six human, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies tested 700+ healthy subjects from 4 weeks to 6 months, at doses of 4.5g-30g per day. Several positive outcomes were shown, including prebiotic effects, cholesterol reduction and that the polysaccharide is well-tolerated at high levels.

“As a prebiotic, LAG is characterized by an increase in beneficial microflora, including Lactobacilli,Bifidobacteriaand total anaerobes,” reported Rodriguez. There was an increase in production of short-chain fatty acids and a decrease in fecal ammonia levels. There was excellent acceptance by subjects usually consuming low-fiber diets, with slow and complete fermentation.

LAG is easy to incorporate into foods, adding a physiological benefit to existing and new foods. Currently, there are yogurts, orange juice and soft drinks in development with LAG. LAG is stable during extrusion and heat processing, and works well in cereals, bars and meal replacement products contributing to a low-glycemic index, showing no spikes in insulin or glucose.

Its technological properties make it unique as a food ingredient, in that it is highly soluble in hot and cold water with low viscosity and, therefore, has a minimal impact on mouthfeel. It is stable to temperature and low pH, retains moisture and increases shelflife.

LAG has been evaluated in cakes, fat-free tortillas, white pan bread and sugar snap cookies at levels of 0.5-10%, based on flour weight. In cake, it produced a fine, uniform grain with a lower density than the control, as well as improved moistness, and contributed a “homemade” texture. Tortillas benefited by having less curl as a result of drying out. They exhibited a “just baked” texture and improved taste, Rodriguez added.

In an experiment comparing soft tortillas with and without 3% LAG, the fortified tortillas retained the highest percentage of the initial moisture. Moisture retention relates to better-tasting product and increased product shelflife. In another experiment of LAG additions of 1, 2, 3 and 5%, the 2% dough produced the less sticky dough and was easier to handle and divide at griddling. Rodriguez states that these tortillas had better taste and aroma than the control, as well as a better quality score. After six days, the LAG tortillas were less firm and seemingly fresher than the control. In white pan bread, LAG improved total quality scores, produced less elastic dough with better grain characteristics and a finer, more desirable crumb structure.

“Benefits and Applications of Larch Arabinogalactan Prebiotic Fiber,” Bryan Rodriguez, technical marketing and scientific affairs manager, Lonza Inc., bryan.rodriguez@lonza.com, www.lonza.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Pre- and Probiotics for Health in Beverages
Digestive health is enhanced by both pre- and probiotics. Closely related nutritional topics are satiety and immune health. Beverages are a common vehicle for both these ingredients, with some of their finer points being explained by Drew Wunderly, beverage group leader for Danisco USA, in his presentation, “Pre- and Probiotics for Digestive and Immune Health in Beverages,” given at the 2008Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar-Chicago.

Prebiotics have been defined as non-digestible foods or ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of beneficial bacteria in the colon, thus improving host health.

Polydextrose is a glucose polymer that consists of linked glucose units randomly bonded with predominately a-1-6 linkages. The human body does not possess enzymes to break down this type of bond. Polydextrose has a large molecular weight of about 2,000 daltons and is often used to provide bulk for sugar or fat substitutes. It has little or no detectable sweetness and is used in many food applications.

Wunderly went on to say that polydextrose exhibits prebiotic function and/or activity. This is indicated by specific activity of the bacteria, such as disappearance of polydextrose in the colon, short-chain fatty acid production, decreased pH and utilization of short-chain fatty acids.

Growth of bacteria is indicated by evaluating numbers. According to Wunderly, “the total amount of bacteria is insignificant, and the prebiotic effect should increase beneficial bacteria, but not increase non-beneficial bacteria.” A list of studies demonstrates the prebiotic effects of polydextrose. As a fiber, polydextrose increases fecal bulking, softening and short-chain fatty acids, while it decreases transit time, pH and carcinogens.

If the prebiotic fermentation rate is too high, adverse effects occur, such as fast gas production and lactic acid accumulation in the proximal part of the large intestine, and positive effects are limited to the proximal area of the colon. Slowly fermentable prebiotics provide carbohydrate for fermentation in the distal part of the colon. The slower fermentation rate reduces gas production and prevents the accumulation of lactic acid at the proximal part of the colon. Their positive effects are also seen in the distal colon.

Polydextrose has a high digestive tolerance, with a laxative threshold of 90g per day or 50g as a single dose (which is higher than most commercial, low-calorie carbohydrates). Not only does polydextrose act as a prebiotic, it also induced a feeling of satiety in comparison to a control group.

Probiotics are living organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Dairy products are an excellent vehicle for probiotic bacteria, and they have been successfully added to milks, smoothies, cheese, kefir and cottage cheese. Dairy products already portray a healthy image, contain bacteria and are closely associated with yogurt.

Probiotic health benefits involve competition with pathogens, promoting gut health, enhancing the immune system, aiding food digestion, moderating the intestinal flora and reducing intestinal discomfort. Probiotics can be used for gastric and intestinal illness, liver disease, lactose intolerance, diarrhea, blood pressure control, cholesterol reduction, cancer risk reduction and food allergies, said Wunderly. He referred to one study, where children in a daycare using probiotics had significantly less symptoms of fever, cough and runny nose, as well as experienced a significant reduction in the duration of symptoms, in sick days and in antibiotic prescriptions (as compared to children in a placebo group).

Probiotic activity is impacted by chemical properties, ingredients and processing. In dairy and beverage applications, they should be added post-pasteurization, to prevent exposure to high temperatures.

“Pre- and Probiotics for Digestive and Immune Health in Beverages,” Drew Wunderly, beverage group leader for Danisco USA, drew.wunderly@danisco.com, www.danisco.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Yogurt, History and Advances in Manufacturing
Yogurt’s history starts in the early 1900s, when the Russian bacteriologist, Elie Metchnikoff, observed Bulgarian peasants said to be thriving and even bearing children past the age of 100. Metchnikoff noted that the people frequently paused from work to eat bowls of yogurt mixed with nuts and vegetables. He was convinced that yogurt was responsible for their longevity and began to study the food. He isolated two strains of bacteria from yogurt,Streptococcus thermophilusandLactobacillus bulgaricus. Metchnikoff found these bacteria to be rich in B vitamins, and they appeared able to combat a common intestinal virus he believed produced toxins that hasten the aging process.

“In 1925, the first modern yogurt plant was established in Sydney, Australia,” explained Marie Cummings, manager of Food Applications and Product Development for David Michael & Co., in her presentation, “The Culture History of Yogurt,” given during the 2008 R&D Applications Seminar-Chicago.

Today, milder yogurts are typically made withLactobacillus acidophilus,Bifidus,Lactobacillus caseiandLactobacillus reuteri. Dairy ingredients used in yogurts include milks, creams, milk powders, condensed milk and whey protein. Typical sweeteners include sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and erythritol. Gelatin, modified food starch, pectin, whey protein concentrate, locust bean gum, guar gum, xanthan gum or other stabilizers often are used to improve a yogurt’s texture. Other functional ingredients, like tricalcium phosphate, citric acid and potassium sorbates, also are utilized.

Yogurt production, explained in its simplest terms by Cummings, involves inoculation, flavoring, filling containers and fermenting at 42°C. Some yogurts, like those that have fruit on the bottom, may be cultured in the cup. The fruit preparation is deposited on the bottom, and the inoculated dairy base added on top. When certain pH and acidity are reached, the cups are cooled to refrigerated temperature. Blended yogurts are generally made by first culturing the yogurt in a vat, stirring in the fruit and then depositing the mix into cups.

In the 1970s, when yogurt started to become flavored, preserves were used. In the 1980s, manufacturers began to move away from preserves and toward reducing sweetness.

“When aseptic processing became available, the standard fruit preserves and jellies were replaced. New formulations required different stabilization with aseptic equipment. The sugar and fruit were being reduced. Consumers wanted fresher, bolder flavors, so natural flavors then started to come into focus because of their convenience,” explained Cummings.

Trends in the 1990s included using different sweeteners and reducing fat. Sugar-free, aspartame-containing preserves were used to make fat-free fruit yogurts. Full-fat vs. non-fat flavor release was the issue, causing a move to non-fat yogurt with sugar, or a combination of fructose and aspartame.

Today, yogurt is known for nutritional benefits that include immunity, digestion, heart health and weight management, with added benefits through fortification of calcium and fiber. Tropical and Superfruit flavors are popular, as are both prebiotic and probiotic claims.

“The Cultured History of Yogurt,” Marie Cummings, manager of food applications and product development, David Michael & Co., mcummings@dmflavors.com, www.dmflavors.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Calcified Mineral Source and Bone Health
 “A focus on calcium is important, as inadequate intakes have been reported in North America, Latin America and Asia, in both children and adults,” explained Cristina Munteanu, senior food applications specialist at GTC Nutrition, in her presentation, “Improving Bone Health with Process Cheese Products and Spreads, Using a Unique Calcified Calcium Source.” Some 90% of girls and 75% of boys aged 9-13 are not getting enough calcium to ensure optimal peak bone mass, according to the National Institutes of Health (2006). Also, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (2006), 10% of Americans have low bone mass. Osteoporosis is a global problem, with the greatest increase over the next 50 years expected to be in Asia and Latin America.

Calcium represents 40% of the minerals in the body, 99% of which is in the skeleton. Its main function is to form and maintain bones, while other functions include transmission of nerve impulses, blood clotting and muscle contraction.

An adequate calcium intake maximizes peak bone mass early in life and reduces age-related bone loss and risk of fractures. Meeting dietary calcium needs is associated with reduced risk of osteoporosis. Calcium-deficient diets lead to decreased calcium loss in the urine and increased levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which cause loss of calcium in the bone. Calcium-rich diets help decrease calcium loss from bones.

Calcium absorption is affected by a number of factors, including dietary phosphorus, phytic acid, polyphenols in tea, caffeine, smoking, alcohol, medications, vitamin D deficiency, abnormal intestinal flow, lack of weight-bearing exercise, low body weight, age and menopause.

Munteanu noted that her company provides a solution for calcium fortification, in the form of a unique “Calcified Mineral Source.” This ingredient offers a bioavailable calcium, along with other minerals, that help control PTH levels, said Munteanu. Not only may this ingredient decrease bone loss, but it has anti-inflammatory effects as well, Munteanu added. Processed cheese products and spreads fortified with this proprietary Calcified Mineral Source enhance bone health in children and adults.

The unique Calcified Mineral Source is a plant-derived marine mineral originating from the red algae, Lithothamnion calcareum, which absorbs minerals from the sea. It is a renewable source, as the algae sheds leaves frequently, and these are then harvested. The product contains 31-35% calcium and approximately 3% magnesium and can be labeled “sea minerals” or “calcium carbonate.” It has a unique structure and multi-mineral matrix of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, sodium, fluorine, manganese, boron, molybdenum, zinc, nickel, copper, cobalt, iodine and selenium, all of which can be important for bone health.  (See chart “The Role of Trace Minerals in Osteoporosis.”)

Studies have shown that the Calcified Mineral Source depresses PTH, a marker for bone breakdown, is readily bioavailable and promotes joint health.  “Fortifying process cheese with this ingredient can help achieve a 40% DV for calcium per slice, without affecting plasticity, texture, meltability or flavor. It promotes a smooth, non-chalky mouthfeel and a medium-firm texture.” Munteanu stated that for processed cheese spreads with higher moisture, a 20% DV for calcium per serving can be met without affecting spreadability, creaminess or flavor.

Health claim and nutrient content claim opportunities are possible for products that feature significant amounts of calcium. Good-tasting process cheese products containing these levels can be formulated to address bone health, concluded Munteanu.

“Improving Bone Health with Process Cheese Products and Spreads, Using a Unique Calcium Source,” Cristina Munteanu, senior food applications specialist, GTC Nutrition, cmunteanu@gtcnutrition.com, www.gtcnutrition.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Probiotics for Frozen Dessert Applications
Unlike regular yogurt, frozen yogurt is not defined in the Code of Federal Regulations, thereby leaving more options open in its formulation and production. Frozen yogurt can be made two ways. The first, a single-mix fermentation, is a simple, slow process, using special cultures. The downside to this method is that the product can lack flavor, and the process can cause protein damage. The alternative procedure is by multiple mixes, where a portion is fermented and is combined with a portion that is not. The flavor is improved with this method, and the protein is more stable, but it also may need special cultures.

During the 2008Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminars-Chicago, Jonathan Hopkinson, Ph.D., senior applications scientist for Danisco USA, discussed the considerations when using yogurt cultures, in a presentation titled, “Probiotics for Frozen Dessert Applications.” The typical cultures areLactobacillus bulgaricusandStreptococcus thermophilus. Their ability to tolerate sugar needs to be considered, especially in high-sugar yogurt formulations. Also, it is preferable to have strains that produce low amounts of exopolysaccharides (hydrocolloids excreted by the bacteria), since high-viscosity yogurts can have problems in churning and curdy meltdown. Those are traditional “yogurt making” cultures, but what about probiotics, now increasingly being used for their health benefits?

A probiotic is defined by the FAO/WHO as a live microorganism that, when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit to the host. The benefits and claims are strain-specific and cannot be extrapolated to other strains, said Hopkinson. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate a limited number of bacteria in the colon, to improve host health.

Hopkinson stated that the probiotics trend doubled in size in the last eight months of 2007, reflecting the industry’s need to establish standardized guidelines, as the field of probiotics continues to expand. Dairy has been the typical carrier of probiotics, but there is an increasing range of foods containing them, including baked goods, spreads, meals, breakfast cereals, snacks, ice cream, frozen desserts and fruit juices. Though the number of new probiotic frozen dairy desserts launched is not high, it is increasing every year, proving that these probiotic products are a growing niche market. Market analysis shows that most of the probiotic frozen desserts are frozen yogurt and often have content claims, such as “contains live cultures,” rather than health claims, like “enhances immunity.”

Research has supported probiotics’ ability to bestow many health benefits. However, “While these benefits are found in the literature, there is limited quantitative data for some of these claims. There are also studies indicating no or limited benefits. Some of the clinical trials that were successful used very high concentrations of probiotic bacteria,” Hopkinson pointed out. There is an elevated demand for scientific substantiation from suppliers of health-beneficial ingredients.[Additionally, the number of studies on probiotic health benefits are steadily increasing.--Eds.]

Microbial cultures are regulated as food ingredients, even when no claims are made. Considered GRAS, probiotics are provided for in the standards of identity of fermented foods; however, when used in other foods, they must either be GRAS or approved by way of a food additive petition. The regulation of probiotic strains and prebiotics depends directly on claims made. During the presentation, Hopkinson went into some discussion on the types of claims that can be made. For example, he explained, structure-function claims often are made on foods containing pre- or probiotics, with call-outs such as “helps promote/support/maintain a healthy digestive/immune system.”

In order for a product to provide consumers the same number of organisms that were used in studies, some calculations need to be made. A (typical) use rate for probiotics is from 1-5 billion per serving, depending on the organism and product. A loss of one log needs to be considered when freezing. So, for a 60g serving, to get 5 x 1010organisms per serving, the product needs to be inoculated with 8.33 x 108organisms per gram or 3.4 x 1012organisms per gallon for ice cream. The number of viable organisms per container of culture can be obtained from the manufacturer.

Potential problems that can decrease probiotic viability include the incorporation of air, as well as the use of certain fruits, antioxidants or components of flavors, such as alcohol or mint flavors. Also, very low pH and freezing (which concentrates the soluble components of a product, creating a harsher environment for the probiotic) can be problematic. Decreased viability may also occur, as the product is hardened and held throughout its shelflife (depending on the formulation and organism).

The key to enhancing foods with probiotics is to thoroughly conduct many tests, as every situation is different. 

“Probiotics for Frozen Dessert Applications,” John Hopkinson, senior applications scientist, Danisco USA, john.hopkinson@danisco.com, www.danisco.com
--Summary by  Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Get In-depth Answers
The presentation overviews offered here are but the tip of the iceberg in regards to information conveyed during any particular speech. Additionally, the speakers provide invaluable advice on specific formulation and processing challenges brought up by the audience. On October 19-21, 2009, at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca, Ill.,Prepared Foodswill once again hold the R&D Applications Seminar-Chicago. Go to www.PreparedFoods.com/rd for more information.

Chicago Applications Laboratory Focus: Functional Fiber
Presentations at Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminars provide generic overviews of proprietary ingredients or ingredient categories. However, in special, more interactive sessions called Applications Laboratories, suppliers make more in-depth efforts to educate the audience, by providing actual products for sampling. In some cases, preparation steps are shown and discussed for an enhanced learning experience. In such Applications Laboratories, suppliers can also point out the specific advantages of their own branded ingredients.  

Such was the case in an Applications Laboratory titled, “Fiber as a Functional Ingredient.” Vice-president of technology, Triveni Shukla, Ph.D., director of research and development, Lynda Carroll, and food technologist, Aili Sun, of Z-Trim Holdings, presented four applications using their Z-Trim multifunctional fiber ingredient. Z-Trim is a natural cellulose fiber, derived from corn grain hulls, that undergoes a minimal amount of processing and can be cleanly labeled as “corn fiber” or “dietary fiber.” It has an amorphous structure, rather than a microcrystalline structure, giving it several unique properties; it is available in two forms, a lower viscosity product and a high-viscosity product, as well as custom blends that fit specific application needs.

The first application presented was a creamy Italian dressing. Starting with a solution of 4% Z-Trim, this solution was used to replace 70% of the fat in the dressing, resulting in a final product usage of approximately 1%.  The dressing compared favorably to a full-fat dressing for creaminess and mouthfeel. Because Z-Trim forms a very stable emulsion and binds up to 30 times its weight in water, it performs double-duty as a fat replacer and substitutes for other gums and stabilizers used to maintain the emulsion. It remains stable at the low pH typical of most dressings and is shear-stable during processing through a colloid mill.

The second application presented by the Z Trim R&D team was a reduced-fat frozen bisque soup. The bisque was created by completely replacing the 4% starch typically used in this application with 2% Z-Trim. The Z-Trim gave the bisque a natural, freeze/thaw stability because of its ability to bind water. It also added 3g of dietary fiber per serving, while reducing the fat and maintaining the creamy texture. Z-Trim also can be used to prevent “weepage” or syneresis in frozen entrée sauces.

A reduced-fat turkey burger was the third application presented; Z-Trim was added with seasonings and water prior to grinding. Z-Trim bound the water, creating an increase in product volume of up to 25%, without affecting the texture of the product, noted the speaker. The ingredient increased the juiciness of the turkey burger and also prevented shrinkage during cooking, due to its water-binding capacity. The cooked patty appeared almost the same size as the uncooked patty. Additionally, Z-Trim tasted neutral, unlike other traditional meat extenders, said the presenter.

Z-Trim can be used to improve other low-fat ground meat products, such as sausage, or it can be included in the injection solution of whole-meat products to increase yield and minimize cook shrinkage. It was noted that Z-Trim also can be used in hamburger buns for texture and to increase dietary fiber, as well as, again, prevent “weepage,” or separation of the condiments, and reduce fat in the sandwich dressing; all of these conditions combine to provide several grams of dietary fiber in one meal.

The fourth application was a chocolate-flavored meal replacement nutritional drink. In this application, Z-Trim provided 6g of fiber in an 8oz serving. Another application discussed during the presentation included using Z-Trim in retorted soup and chili to bind the fat that often separates from the matrix, improving the appearance when opened by the consumer. A favorite of the presenter was the addition of Z-Trim to egg whites, providing an eating experience similar to whole eggs. It has also been used to add 7% fiber to yolk-free pasta, without affecting “processability,” while maintaining texture and reducing breakage.

 “Fiber as a Functional Ingredient,” Triveni Shukla, Lynda Caroll and Aili Sun, Z-Trim Holdings. For more information, contact Phil Versten, vice-president, marketing and communications, Z Trim Multifunctional Fiber Ingredients, phil.versten@ztrim.com, www.ztrim.com.
--Summary by Matt Hutchinson, Contributing Editor