Chronic inflammation: The next opportunity?

by Keith Nunes
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NEW ORLEANS — Addressing the complications caused by chronic inflammation associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer, and the possible alleviation of the condition through the development of food and beverage products that target the condition was the topic of an education session during the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and food expo. The bottom line of the session was there is an opportunity in this health and wellness category, but more consumer research as well as scientific research needs to be done.

“If I spoke to you about what consumers understand about chronic inflammation, this would be a very short presentation,” said Barbara Katz, president of the market research firm HealthFocus International.

Ms. Katz said while consumers may not know much about chronic inflammation and its effects, they do understand, and many are dealing with, the causes, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. The challenge facing any businesses considering developing applications for this market is HealthFocus has found most consumers, regardless of what their actual health state may be, believe they lead a healthy or very healthy lifestyle and they may not see a reason to buy a product that alleviates a condition they do not believe they have.

Guy Johnson, of Johnson Nutrition Solutions, L.L.C., said there is so much science accumulating around the issue of chronic inflammation that the development of products to alleviate the condition is inevitable.

Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties include fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Britt Burton-Freeman, a researcher with the Institute of Food Safety and Health, said a low-fat diet featuring foods with anti-inflammatory properties will reduce inflammation in people who develop chronic illnesses such as heart disease or cancer.

Extracting the anti-inflammatory properties and incorporating them into processed food and beverage applications is a work in progress, according to Mario Ferruzzi, a researcher with Purdue University. He said maintaining stability and bioavailability through the manufacturing and consumer preparation processes may prove challenging. More work needs to be done, he said, to assess the best ways to ensure consistent delivery of the phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties.
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