Canadians will soon be able to purchase foods that are nutritionally enhanced with phytosterols. In large part, this is due to the significant effort by one supplier to obtain worldwide regulatory approval for this ingredient.

In June 2009, Cognis Nutrition & Health submitted a Novel Food application to Health Canada for its Heart Choice® phytosterols. For years, phytosterols were only available to Canadian consumers as dietary supplements.

Laura Troha, marketing manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health, explained, “Cognis worked diligently with Canadian regulators, so consumers can benefit from the compelling clinical evidence on phytosterols.” Phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, are a naturally occurring class of compounds found in grains, fruits and vegetables. The chemical structures of cholesterol and phytosterol molecules are similar; phytosterols can compete with cholesterol for absorption in the small intestine. Phytosterols block the absorption of dietary cholesterol into the bloodstream and inhibit the reabsorption of cholesterol from bile acids in the digestive process, reducing the amount of cholesterol entering the bloodstream.

Heart Choice phytosterols are clinically proven to lower cholesterol up to 15%, and they have a health claim approved by the FDA. In Canada, the approved daily serving is up to the equivalent of 3g of free sterols. Food applications include unstandardized spreads; mayonnaise; margarine and calorie-reduced margarine; salad dressing and unstandardized salad dressings; yogurt and yogurt drinks; and vegetable and fruit juices.

“Cognis’ broad product portfolio of natural source, kosher, non-GM/IP-certified plant sterols and sterol esters allows us to work closely with customers to identify the best form for a wide variety of applications,” said Charles Barber, technical service and applications manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health. “With our state-of-the-art technology, customers can easily add phytosterols into their foods and beverages, without altering the taste, texture, aroma or appearance of their products.”

Health Canada has proposed criteria for the use of a health claim recognizing the impressive body of clinical research that supports the efficacy of phytosterols for cholesterol lowering: “[serving size from Nutrition Facts table in metric and common household measures] of [naming the product] provides X% of the daily amount1 of plant sterols shown to help reduce/lower cholesterol in adults.”

Two additional statements that could be used, in combination or alone, adjacent to the primary statement: 1) “Plant sterols help reduce [or help lower] cholesterol,” or 2) “High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.”

“Heart Choice phytosterols offer food manufacturers a safe, naturally derived and effective intervention option for Canadian consumers to incorporate these important constituents into their diets,” Troha said.

Cognis is a founding member of the Collaboration for Advancement of Plant Sterols in Canada (CAPSIC), a group formed by food companies to communicate the health benefits of these important nutrients and fund research activities.

 Major food manufacturers and retailers in Canada are in the final stages of product development with Cognis, and the country’s first foods with Heart Choice natural plant sterols are expected to be launched within a few months. NS

For more information:
Cognis Nutrition & Health • La Grange, Ill.
Charles Barber • 708-579-6162

1The “daily amount” referred to in the primary statement is 2g. This amount is based on the evidence available concerning the amount of plant sterols shown to help reduce cholesterol in adults. In this statement, the percentage of the daily amount of plant sterols provided in one serving should be expressed to the nearest multiple of 5%.