Improving structural support

by Keith Nunes
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While the market for supplements promoting bone health in the United States is well estab-lished, the functional food and beverage segment is in its infancy. New product introductions in the country featuring functional bone health claims climbed to 57 in 2010, up from 39 in 2008 and 48 in 2009, with the majority appearing in dairy products and non-alcoholic beverages, according to Min-tel International’s Global New

Products Database. As a point of context, there were a total of 21,457 new food and beverage products introduced in 2008, 15,612 in 2009, and 21,232 in 2010.

But the small size of the market does not mean there is not growing interest in the category. In early July, General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, through its G-Win open innovation program, posted two requests for submissions related to bone health.

Under G-Win, the company seeks partners to help General Mills introduce innovation that enhances the taste, health and convenience of its products.

In one request, the company said it is seeking innovation regarding increasing absorption along the digestive tract.

“Calcium absorption is de-pendent on multiple factors, including calcium solubility in the digestive tract, the pre-sence of other compounds in the digestive system which may promote or inhibit calcium absorption, calcium load size, genetic variations and the age of the individual consuming the calcium,” General Mills said. “For example, other divalent cations can compete with calcium for absorption. Each calcium source ex-hibits slight differences in absorption, yet research shows that most calcium sources exhibit similar bioavailability and tend to fall within ~10% of the absorbability of milk calcium. We are seeking ways to increase the absorption of calcium in the digestive tract.”

In addition to proof of effect, General Mills said any solutions should be effective in a milk-based system acidified to pH 4.5; ingredients should be GRAS (generally recognized as safe); and ingredients should be able to withstand 165°F for 15 seconds and effective at pH 4.5.

In its second request for submission, General Mills said it is interested in providing a cultured dairy product that enhances the bone formation process beyond the known impact of calcium and vitamin D. Noting that bone is a dynamic tissue, the company said bone is being remodeled throughout life for the purpose of maintaining bone integrity and for reshaping bone to accommodate changing mechanical load placed on the bone.

“At any given time, over 1 million B.M.U.’s (basic multi-cellular units) are active in healthy adults,” General Mills said. “In healthy adults, formation and resorption are synchronized such that new bone replaces old bone in the right quantity, at the right time and in the right place. Many sites throughout the skeleton undergo remodeling simultaneously, which results in a significant amount of the adult skeleton being replaced every year.

“We are seeking ways to enhance and sustain the bone formation process (enhance the activity of osteoblasts over that of osteoclasts) through cultured dairy foods.”

Ingredient earns award

The subject of bone health also played a prominent role during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food expo, held this past June in New Orleans. Summit Resource Group, St. Louis, which is a distributor for Helios Corp., Santa Fe, N.M., earned an I.F.T. Food Expo Innovation Award for its NC-518 Calcium for Bone Health. The ingredient is produced through a patented manufacturing technology to enhance the availability of trace minerals and zinc in the calcium. A laser micronization process electrostatically enhances the zinc delivery system and allows the calcium to absorb in the bloodstream and support bone health. The effectiveness of the ingredient has been demonstrated through human clinical studies.

NC-518 has been evaluated through a phase I and a U.S.-based phase II placebo controlled, randomized, double blind, human clinical study, according to Helios Corp. The studies showed NC-518 increased bone density in the active group by 2.2% over 4 months, and the ingredient is gaining interest from product developers in the beverage and dairy categories, said Michael Jeffers, president of Helios Corp.

“The beverage and dairy categories are a starting point,” Mr. Jeffers said. “In the beverage category, in particular, there is a massive hunt for new science and technologies, but the ingredient can be used in many other applications.”

Mr. Jeffers said there were two primary advantages to NC-518. First, an effective dosage rate is 800 mg per day, which is less than the recommended daily intake of 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Second, the ingredient is 25% to 35% more soluble than standard calcium carbonate. He added that no other calcium derivative in the U.S. market maintains clinical proof that it will increase bone density.

Broad market appeal

There are two primary target markets for companies interested in developing products promoting bone health — children and baby boomers.

“Given the continued trend toward the aging population, bone health is a concern for all of us,” said Bonney Oommen, business development manager for Glanbia Nutritionals, Madison, Wis., and a division of Glanbia P.L.C. “Women over 50 in particular need to ensure adequate calcium intake. In addition, parents are interested in making sure their children get the required amount of calcium at an early age to maintain good bone health and to support growth and development. Inadequate bone development due to lack of calcium and milk minerals can lead to further problems later in life, such as osteoporosis and osteopenia.”

Glanbia markets TruCal, an ingredient that features a milk mineral complex that combines both calcium and natural minerals such as vitamin D to provide efficient mineral retention and calcium absorption.

“TruCal is a versatile ingredient that can be added to almost any food product,” Mr. Oommen said. “In neutral pH applications, for example, TruCal can be provided in a small particle size and suspended in the food matrix. The particles are small enough to be undetectable from a sensory standpoint. If the final product has a pH below 4, the minerals will dissolve into the food matrix. This works well in the case of juices and high acid beverages.”

Mr. Oommen noted that the extraction of milk minerals for use in ingredients is a recent advancement in technology and may provide additional ingredients that promote bone growth and development.

“As consumers look for better ingredients and become more educated about their choices, milk minerals will continue to become a key ingredient for formulators looking at developing beverages to support bone health,” he said.

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