Strengthening bones with additional nutrients

by Allison Gibeson
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Consumers are well aware of the role calcium and vitamin D play in bone health, but it is important food and beverage manufacturers communicate the bone health benefits of nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K as well.

Patrick Morris, communications manager with Fortitech, Inc., Schenectady, N.Y., said he is seeing consumer media pay more attention to the role of magnesium, but he doubts consumers truly understand the benefits of vitamin K. If companies are going to tout their products as having these nutrients, then it is up to the manufacturer to explain how they are beneficial, he said.

Communicating the benefits of the nutrients is important because the market for bone health products is diverse. Not only is there a large baby boomer population concerned about osteoporosis, but Heather Biehl, manager of Health Ingredient Technology and Solutions for Wild Flavors, Erlanger, Ky., said they also are seeing interest in bone health from the sports nutrition market. Injuries from sports are commonplace, and ingredients that support bone health may help ward off some types of injuries.

In addition, bone health is an important consideration in the market for children’s products, she said. Starting good nutrition for bones early in life results in fewer problems later, she noted.

Nadeen Myers, food ingredient specialist with ICL Food Specialties, Lawrence, Kas., agreed, saying parents increasingly are working to ensure children receive proper nutrition.

Mr. Morris said bone health products also may be developed for consumers of all ages, but in order to maintain an appeal they must contain bone health benefits along with other benefits such as immune system support or cognitive function. Many consumers are looking at an overall platform that contributes to general wellness.

Wild Flavors offers ingredients such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K2 and soy isoflavones for bone health. One of the company’s newest ingredients is a clear emulsion of vitamins D3 and K2, a patented technology that allows a beverage manufacturer to deliver both of the key vitamins in a water-soluble form that is clear in solution.

Wild Flavors also sees bone health and joint health going hand-in-hand.

“Our bodies are a complicated assembly of bones and joints,” Ms. Biehl said. “Strong bones are important, but if joint health is neglected then chronic pain and stiffness can make the activities you love doing simply unbearable. This is why we often formulated food and beverage products with ingredients that support bone health like calcium and ingredients that support joint health like collagen and hyaluronic acid.”

Much of the current product innovation revolves around combining bone health ingredients with joint health ingredients or looking for new forms of calcium, and Ms. Biehl said the challenge in developing ingredients for bone health is finding something unique and different that is as effective as the common pairing of calcium and vitamin D. Another challenge is bioavailability and ensuring the body is able to absorb and use the ingredients to benefit bone health, she added.

Ms. Biehl said manufacturers need to consider that bone health ingredients may affect their products. Calcium and magnesium may buffer the pH, which may impact the flavor, color and microbial stability of a product. Vitamins D3 and K2 are not water soluble, which presents problems in beverages. In addition, vitamin D is not stable to light and temperature so a manufacturer may need to compensate for these effects.

Calcium alone is not sufficient, and Ms. Myers stressed the importance of having the appropriate ratio of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to achieve optimal bone health. She said this helps with calcium absorption because if calcium isn’t absorbed properly it may cause other problems through calcium deposits, and it is important to develop convenient and easy ways to get enough bone health nutrients.

ICL Performance Products offers Mag-nificent, which provides magnesium and phosphate in one ingredient for products such as nutritional supplements, vitamins, ready-to-eat cereals, geriatric beverages and infant formulas. Ms. Myers said the product is often used in conjunction with another magnesium source.

Nutritional fortification beverages such as Boost and Ensure as well as soy beverages often use magnesium phosphates.

Cathy Arnold, senior formulation scientist at Fortitech, sees demand for bone health ingredients in dry powder blends, stick packs, bars, cereals, oatmeal and infant nutrition.

“I see (bone health) continuing to be a very strong focus, both in the medical field as well as with consumers, too,” Ms. Myers said. “It’s not a whimsy. It is something people are very sensitive to. Osteoporosis is still a big concern.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Morris said nanotechnology and encapsulation have helped expand the types of products where the ingredients may be used. There has been significant growth in ready-to-drink powdered beverages, and the format has grown due to consumers desiring on-the-go convenience.

In the future there will be a need for improved solubility of some market forms of some of the ingredients, possibly through nanotechnology, said Ms. Arnold. She said some of challenges in developing the products is choosing the correct market form where the material may go into the application and be soluble without causing off-flavors or grittiness.

According to Mintel, there were 118 new products launched in the United States with functional bone health claims in 2012 through Nov. 26. That compares with 129 introduced in all of 2011 and 188 in 2010.

“In the future, I expect to see more unique bone health ingredients being developed; either new herbal extracts from traditional medicine or new forms or vitamins and minerals,” Ms. Biehl said. “I also expect the future of bone health ingredients will be focused on bioavailability. Consumers will demand evidence that the bone health ingredients in their products are actually being absorbed and working to restore and improve their bone density.”

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