Nutrient Synergies

A functional food is defined as any modified food ingredient that demonstrates physiological benefits and/or reduces the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions.

“Fortification of foods is a rather simple concept, but it requires considerable understanding of the chemical and physical properties of each ingredient used,” says Panna Chaudhari, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs at Fortitech Inc.

The ingredient category includes micro-nutrients, beneficial fatty acids, fibers and indigestible starches, probiotics/prebiotics, phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols, flavanoids, antioxidants and carotenes) and other nutraceuticals. These ingredients can interact significantly with vitamins and minerals during storage and processing and have different stability characteristics. Knowing what interactions will occur is key.

The necessary vitamins in a product cannot always be added at the same processing stage. For example, iron dry-blended into the finished product might have better color than if it is added during the liquid stage. A pro-oxidant like iron also will react with lipids, leading to rancidity. At times, it may be necessary to reduce the desired bioavailability of the mineral by 30% to 40% (to prohibit rancidity).

Carnitine works synergistically with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)—an essential nutrient for normal heart function that also supports the immune system and is an important compound of cell mitochondria. Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) is needed to move fatty acids into cell mitochondria and L-carnitine is useful in combinations with vitamins B6 and C as well as iron and niacin. CoQ10 also is necessary for the manufacture of adenosine 5-triphosphate (ATP), the energy source of all body functions.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) acts as an antioxidant and improves blood sugar metabolism in diabetics. A dosage of 200mg to 600mg of ALA each day enhances the absorption of CoQ10 and vitamins B1, B3, C and E. Inositol monophosphate, necessary for proper nerve transmission and fat metabolism, works well when added with chromium and B vitamins.

Lecithin and phosphotidyl choline are needed to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetyl choline, a main component of cell membranes, which also is needed for proper nervous-system function.

Knowledge of the stability characteristics of the nutrients, together with an understanding of their possible interactions with other ingredients, enables the food technologist to make an estimated guess as to the rate of addition of each nutrient. The only way to confirm the accuracy of this estimate after processing is to evaluate required levels at regular intervals over a period of time equivalent to their effective “use by” date, states Chaudhari.

“Custom-designed Nutrient Premixes for Food Fortification,” Panna Chaudhari, Fortitech, Chaudhari.Panna,

Whey: Ready-to-Drink

Greater consumer interest in nutrition and other health concerns is encouraging innovation in the food and beverage market and creating opportunities for whey proteins. The nutritional ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage category is rapidly expanding, and whey proteins appear to have strong efficacy in such applications.

Studies support the claims that whey proteins play a positive role in weight management, immunity and general health.

Whey contains lactose, minerals, vitamins, protein and traces of milk fat. Whey protein concentrates contain protein levels ranging from 34% to 89%, while whey protein isolates are 90% protein or greater and virtually lactose- and fat-free.

Functionality of a particular whey protein is highly dependent on the factors related to its specific application, such as: concentration; state of the whey proteins; pH; ionic environment; heat treatment; and the presence of lipids.

Whey protein RTD beverage applications can be divided into three functional groups: neutral pH (6-7), mid-range pH (4-5) and low pH (<3.5). There are challenges in each of these areas, mostly related to heat stability and aggregation of whey proteins.

Neutral pH beverages tend to be turbid, milky beverages such as smoothies, although clear protein waters are being developed. A standard whey protein isolate does not fare well in the neutral pH environment, but modified products giving good heat stability are commercially available.

The mid-range pH category is where the greatest heat sensitivity is observed, particularly in beverages with high mineral content. There is a scarcity of whey protein beverages in this category because of the technical hurdles to be overcome. Consumers desire sweeter, less astringent beverages that fall into this category.

The majority of whey protein-fortified beverages have a low pH. Beverages in this segment contain both WPC 80 and WPI, with the trend being for higher protein concentration. Because whey proteins are good buffers, additional acid usually is required to maintain heat stability and clarity that creates a tarter flavor profile.

Whey proteins offer unique nutritional and functional properties that make them a valuable addition to a beverage system.

“Formulating Beverages with Whey Protein,” Starla J. Paulsen, Glanbia Nutritionals Inc., spaulsen@glanbia,

Counting on CoQ10

Greg Horn of Wild Flavors Inc. made a point of highlighting the powerful antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Horn notes it is experiencing explosive growth as a functional ingredient in the global market. Antioxidants help maintain the structural integrity and stability of cell membranes and can counter the disease-causing effects of free radicals.

CoQ10 plays an important role in energy production as well. It is present in the membranes of the mitochondria, the body's energy factories, where it helps regenerate ATP to fuel muscles. As a result, the component has a strong positive effect on heart health. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition where the heart is essentially starved of energy. Supplementing the diet with CoQ10 has been clinically shown to mitigate the effects of CHF and to improve the patient's health. Not surprisingly, the antioxidant has demonstrated positive results with other heart ailments such as cardiomyopathies and hypertension. Patients taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol also should supplement their diet with CoQ10. Statin drugs deplete the body of CoQ10 along with cholesterol, because both compounds share the same biosynthetic pathway, says Horn.

CoQ10 is getting a lot of positive press related to its impact on slowing neuro-degeneration caused by Parkinson's Disease, and is even thought to play an anti-aging role by preventing damage to collagen and elastin production (thereby alleviating wrinkles). Positive effects on weight loss, cancer treatment, immunity, migraine prevention and exercise performance also have been reported but have not yet been clinically proven. Despite the many positive aspects of this coenzyme, problems that have limited its presence in food products do exist.

The absorption of CoQ10, a fat-soluble ingredient, is impacted by its delivery system. Water-soluble, nano-dispersions have up to twice as much bioavailability as fat-soluble forms. Considering the high cost of this ingredient, maximum bioavailability is critical.

Stability of the ingredient is dependent on a variety of factors that product developers need to take into account. Light, heat and oxygen all are crucial parameters to be controlled. Use of CoQ10 is limited by these stability factors as well as its expense and a lack of public awareness of its beneficial effects.

Despite the difficulties facing manufacturers, new food and beverage products containing CoQ10 are being introduced in the U.S. and around the globe. In beverages, the ingredient is found in energy drinks, sports beverages, enhanced waters, liquid vitamin supplements and antioxidant drinks. In food products, CoQ10 is formulated into a wide array of product types including nutritional bars, functional oils, antioxidant candies and weight-control products.

“Coenzyme-Q10 for Food and Beverages,” Greg Horn, Wild Flavors Inc.,,