The National Dairy Council has been promoting the message that "Milk. It does the body good" for years. But it appears other dairy products may be just as beneficial when it comes to matters of health and wellness. From better understanding of specific ingredients to the development of functional foods, dairy product manufacturers have forged ahead in efforts to capitalize on the good-for-you attributes of milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
This innovation comes at a time when consumers have shifted focus toward finding solutions for obesity, and research into health and nutrition is being conducted at an accelerating pace.
Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd., a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based supplier of MEG-3 brand omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)/DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) food and dietary supplement ingredients, last month became the first company to introduce into the United States a yogurt containing the MEG-3 fish oil ingredient. The main nutrients of MEG-3 are the "essential" omega-3s EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA have been scientifically linked to cardiovascular health, brain health as well as normal growth and development helping to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, maintain healthy brain function, maintain visual acuity, reduce inflammation and sustain healthy organs. MEG-3 is made using a microencapsulation process.
In September 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a heart health claim for food products containing EPA/DHA confirming these are the important forms of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.
Ocean Nutrition’s new Woodstock Water Buffalo Yogurt is made from water buffalo milk, Vermont ingredients and high levels of live probiotic cultures. In addition, the new yogurt contains 100 mg of omega-3 EPA and DHA per 170-gram serving.
"Our new yogurt line provides the essential fatty acids missing from most diets, in a healthy, natural and delicious product," said Adrian R. Grundy, president of the Woodstock Water Buffalo Co. Mr. Grundy said the company looks forward to continuing its healthpromoting innovation with other cultured dairy products.
Omega-3 enriched product introductions, such as Woodstock Water Buffalo Yogurt, are important, as many people do not consume enough omega-3 EPA and DHA in their diets to achieve the optimum health benefits from these essential nutrients, he added.
"Experts, including the American Heart Association, agree that people should consume between 500 and 1,000 mg per day of EPA and DHA, and currently Americans consume less than 100 mg per day," said Dr. Colin Barrow, vice-president of research and development at Ocean Nutrition.
The inclusion of the MEG-3 fish oil in dairy products follows the company’s introduction of the ingredient in bread products earlier this year.
Ocean Nutrition not alone
While Woodstock Water Buffalo Yogurt is the first yogurt containing MEG-3 to be launched in the United States, it is not the first such product in North America. Earlier this year, Danone Canada Inc. introduced Cardivia.
Cardivia brand yogurt contains 300 mg of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including 62 mg in the form of EPA and DHA. Sweetened with Splenda and fructose, Cardivia contains 60 calories per serving and is enriched with vitamins A and D.
Prior to its introduction of Cardivia, Danone launched Activia in Canadian supermarkets. Activia contains a live probiotic culture exclusive to Danone called Bifidobacterium lactis, known as BL, which has proven beneficial effects on digestive system health.
"When consumed on a regular basis, Activia containing BL fosters the proper functioning of the intestines, including transit time, thereby contributing to the well-being of our digestive system," said Dr. Gregor Reid, professor at the University of Western Ontario and director of the Canadian R.&D. Centre for Probiotics, based at the Lawson Institute in London, Ontario.
A probiotic is a live organism that when administered in adequate amounts confers a health benefit on the host. Research scientists at Danone selected BL bacteria for its ability to remain active in the digestive system and for its positive results in the clinical studies.
According to the Léger Marketing survey in May 2004, 73% of Canadians polled said they would be willing to try a yogurt if it was proven to help them maintain a healthy digestive system. It appears dairy product manufacturers are answering this call with the recent introductions of Cardivia, Activia and Woodstock Water Buffalo Yogurt.
"At Danone, we strongly believe in the success of this new generation of yogurt," said Laurent Huynh, vice-president of marketing at Danone. "The unique live and active bacteria which Activia contains have beneficial effects for consumers. Danone continues to invest on an ongoing basis in research to develop new products.." unveiled OTTIS (Only the Taste is Sinful) ice cream with Beyond*Sugar, an allnatural, low calorie, low glycemic, thermogenic, nutritionally fortified, fully-functional sugar sweetener. Beyond*Sugar, which is considered gener ally recognized as saf (GRAS), is capable of re cane, beet and corn sugars as the only sugar sweetener in beverages and foods, including ice cream, Quantum Food said. had not been available for com mercial applications, but the successful completion of clinical human trials led Quantum Food to seek out a partner to bring the "healthier" product to market.
"We are looking for the right partner, a company that shares our mission to provide healthier ‘sweet’ options to the world," said Kenneth Knopf, president and director of business development and marketing, Quantum Food. "Hopefully it will be a short process allowing us to improve human life, people’s health and
"In both diabetics and nondiabetics, the OTTIS ice cream performed as a very low glycemic food with a low glycemic load," according to the Glycemic Research Institute, Washington. "Though OTTIS ice cream is a super-premium ice cream, it does not act like regular fattening ice cream, it does not stimulate adipose tissue fat-storage."
Until this past month, OTTIS
New age, healthier ice cream
Yogurt is not alone in its quest to make headways as a healthy product. Healthy ice cream, of all products, could find its way into freezers across the nation if Quantum Food Design is able to license its newest super-premium ice cream to a major company.
Quantum Food in September enjoyment of food by making OTTIS ice cream commercially available as the first Healthy Indulgence."
Quantum Food said studies have demonstrated that Beyond*Sugar has the ability to inhibit some metabolic pathways responsible for obesity and some associated diseases shows potential to dramatically affect the global burden of obesity, diabetes and malnutrition.
"Beyond*Sugar can be used to nutritionally fortify foods and beverages with vitamins, minerals, omega-3 oils and other nutrients and bio-active ingredients, transported in Beyond*Sugar’s structure," the company said. "Beyond*Sugar is thermogenic, i.e. it plays a role in energy expenditure though Diet-Induced Thermogenesis, Meal Induced Thermogenesis and/or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis by raising the Basal Metabolic Rate and the expenditure of energy/energy exchange in the Brown Adipose Tissue and mitochondria. The use of Beyond*Sugar as the sole sugar sweetener in commonly ingested foods may play a role in the thermic response in the BMR and in the thermic response of BAT to meals."
Inulin as important inclusion
Numerous studies have investigated the beneficial effect of probiotics in preventing and treating digestive illnesses through the modulation of bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract. Now, additional studies are demonstrating the immunomodulatory effects of the prebiotics inulin and oligofructose. Inulin is a natural dietary fiber present in many common fruits and vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, onions, garlic, raisins and bananas.
Orafti is one company that sells inulin, an ingredient it says may be used to develop sugar-reduced bakery products, dairy products or confectionery products with health claims relating to the nutritional properties of inulin.
One company that uses Orafti’s inulin for dairy applications is Stonyfield Farm, which uses inulin from chicory roots in its yogurt. According to Stonyfield, 8 grams per day of the type of inulin used in its yogurts increases calcium absorption by as much as 20%. Inulin also serves to boost the body’s natural defenses, the company noted.
"Inulin significantly increases the level of beneficial cultures in your intestinal tract, which helps fortify the body’s natural defenses and prevent common digestive ailments," Stonyfield said. "It also decreases the presence of harmful bacteria, including those that cause food-borne illnesses like e.coli, salmonella, staphylococcus and listeria, and improves the absorption of minerals and synthesis of vitamins."