In spite of thousands of ingredients beneficial to human health and well-being, it seems that only a handful eventually make it from the bench to the shelf.
Many things can hamper a nutraceutical ingredient from use in mainstream food and beverage products. Certainly, technical issues that prevent its incorporation into a formulation—without affecting taste or texture or shelf life—are the most common. However, many game-changing advances in ingredient technology have overcome a majority of these difficulties.
Microencapsulation alone helped put some of the biggest players on the map—rendering lipid-based ingredients water-soluble and concealing undesired flavors. Just think of how ubiquitous the marine-sourced omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA would be if they still smelled and tasted fishy.
Still, there are some truly vital ingredients being left behind—ingredients I dubbed “orphans” a few years ago. These are ingredients that rightly should have become stars ages ago, being uniquely suited for supporting and even boosting health.
“Ubiquitous” is a relevant word here, because Coenzyme-Q10—a.k.a. ubiquinone—is one of those ingredients. Co-Q10 is a key ingredient in human energy production.
The most fundamental stage of energy in the body, energy on the cellular level, is a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is needed to transport energy units in a long train of metabolic processes that turn the food we eat into power needed to run every cell in the body. Without co-Q10, we die. The good news is, it’s called ubiquinone because it is in the mitochondria of every cell in the body. You likely remember mitochondria from Biology 101, tritely called the “powerhouse” of the cell. More good news is that our body makes co-Q10 for us. But now for the bad news: The older we get, the less we make.
There’s another aspect: Co-Q10 also is a critical antioxidant, helping the body use other antioxidants, specifically vitamins C and E. Co-Q10 is a major ingredient for heart health not only because of the antioxidant capacity but because of its unique cells and constant state of working. As we age, or if we struggle in a constant state of stress or disease, the body’s stores of co-Q10 get depleted faster than we can replenish them. After your 30s, supplementation is a good idea. That said, while microencapsulation technology allowed for a boom in omega usage, few product developers are taking advantage of the technology to include the fat-soluble compound co-Q10 in foods or beverages. For now, it appears only in a few sports products, such as bars and beverages. Since most of these are targeting a younger consumer, a big, ripe market of aging baby Boomers (me included) is being seriously overlooked.
One of the world’s leading expert on co-Q10, Mark Anthony, Ph.D., has a feature in the June issue of Prepared Foods magazine on “orphan” ingredients such as ubiquinone. He discusses it as well as zinc, selenium, beta-glucans, phosphatidyl serine, picolinate, astaxanthine, emerging botanicals and others.
Mark and I have been friends for almost a quarter of a century, since he ran the University of Texas research labs of Karl Folkers, Ph.D., the man who discovered co-Q10’s chemical structure in the year I was born. Dr. Folkers himself was a powerhouse—he never walked, always ran, and even in his 90s would command the hallways of the nutrition research buildings at UT, bellowing out to all he passed, “Have you had your co-Q10 today?!”
That’s a good question, and one I hope some forward-thinking processors think about helping us answer in the affirmative. I’d sure buy orange juice fortified with co-Q10.