Lutein for looking - and looking good

by Jeff Gelski
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Exhibitors’ booths and presen-tations at food industry-related conventions this year promoted ingredients that provide functional benefits when added to foods or beverages. One ingredient might help with better eyesight while another might improve skin hydration. Lutein apparently does both. Known well in the supplement industry, it is appearing more often in foods and beverages.

DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. has conducted several studies on lutein, said Aparna Parikh, marketing manager.

"Consumer awareness of lutein is quite high," she said. "About half the adult population is aware of lutein (45%), and a large percentage (60%) of these adults are able to associate specific health benefits with lutein."

Lutein’s effects on skin health were the focus of a clinical trial that appeared in 2007 in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. Randomized, placebo-controlled, 12-week clinical trials involved oral and topical administration of FloraGlo lutein from Kemin Health, a division of Kemin Industries, Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, and zeaxanthin. Participants who took 10 mg of lutein and 0.6 mg of zeaxanthin per day exhibited multiple benefits in the skin, such as protection from ultraviolet wavelengths of sunlight and increased surface lipids, skin hydration and skin elasticity.

Kemin and DSM Nutritional Products, which has a U.S. office in Parsippany, N.J., are in an alliance to grow the lutein market. It involves Kemin supplying FloraGlo brand lutein exclusively through DSM.

"Historically, the typical application for lutein and zeaxanthin for the eye health platform has been supplements, but functional foods have gained increasing interest in the last couple of years as consumers look to foods and beverages for added and specific health benefits," Ms. Parikh said.

A webinar in October focused on how FloraGlo lutein and Optisharp zeaxanthin may provide eyesight benefits, such as avoiding age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Dr. Billy Hammond Jr., Ph.D., a professor at the Neuroscience and Behavior, Vision Sciences Laboratory at the University of Georgia, spoke during the webinar. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants called carotenoids, he said. They are found in such vegetables as kale, spinach, greens, lettuce and pumpkins.

While there are about 600 known carotenoids, only lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the eye at more than trace levels, Dr. Hammond said. Lutein and zeaxanthin act like internal sunglasses to offer such benefits as reducing glare, increasing range of vision and enhancing contrast, he said.

Science shows efficacy of lutein and zeaxanthin in eye health at 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin, Ms. Parikh said. However, Americans generally consume only 1 mg or 2 mg of lutein per day, Dr. Hammond said.

"The average levels are shockingly low," he said.

Adding lutein and zeaxanthin to foods and beverages may increase those levels. Lutein is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use in foods and beverages. Maximum levels of use per serving range from 2 mg in fruit snacks to 6 mg in dairy products, according to Cognis Nutrition & Health, which has a U.S. office in La Grange, Ill. Ms. Parikh of DSM said the Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) is 10 mg of lutein for cereal, granola, energy and nutrition bars. The RACC for lutein in energy, sports and isotonic drinks is 3 mg for ready-to-drink products and 5 mg for powdered.

Companies may state "contains X mg of lutein or lutein esters per serving" on the packaging of foods or beverages, said Rob Bailey, marketing manager for Cognis Nutrition & Health. They also may use structure/function claims such as "natural lutein esters help maintain eye health." Lutein and zeaxanthin may be added as an oil to oil-based foods and beverages and as a powder to dry ingredients and matrices, Mr. Bailey said.

"They are sensitive to heat and light, but using the correct form, like an encapsulated powder, can help with stability," he said.

Lutein and zeaxanthin in baked foods may have a shelf life of several weeks, Ms. Parikh said. They may work in beverage applications for up to a year. Actilease beadlets from DSM are designed for applications that require cold water to disperse, Ms. Parikh said.

Cognis offered a tangerine juice drink with its Xangold natural lutein esters at its booth at Health Ingredients Europe in Paris earlier this month. The drink was intended for people over age 40 who want to maintain macular and retinal health. Orange juice at the Cognis booth contained Xangold natural lutein esters and vitamin C and was designed to improve skin hydration and elasticity.

Fortitech Europe, Gadstrup, Denmark, at its booth offered a "Beautiful You Beverage" that contained collagen, coenzyme Q10 and lutein to help nourish the skin and deliver anti-aging benefits.

Lutein already is found in products offered at retail. A Glaceau Vitaminwater called Focus includes lutein and vitamin A for eye health.

Lutein awareness may grow since Kemin Health recently entered a series of initiatives in partnership with the American Optometric Association. A "Nutrients for Eye Health" project includes mailing printed educational material to more than 20,000 association members that explain which nutrients foster healthy eyes.

Lutein ester use levels

Food category maximum level of use per serving

Baked goods and baking mixes 4 mg

 Soy milk 3 mg

 Beverages and beverage powders 4 mg

 Frozen dairy desserts and mixes 2 mg

 Processed fruit and vegetable products 4 mg

 Egg products and egg substitutes 4 mg

 Breakfast cereals (R.-T.-E. and hot) 4 mg

 Fats and oils 3 mg

Hard candy 2 mg

 Fruit snacks 2 mg

 Dairy products 6 mg

 Source: Cognis Nutrition & Health

Ingredients may reduce stress

Falling stock prices and an increasing number of home foreclosures apparently have affected the stress levels of Americans. Eight in 10 Americans say the economy is a significant cause of stress, up from 66% in April, according to the 2008 Stress in America survey released Oct. 7 by the American Psychological Association, Washington.

Ingredients added to foods and beverages may help Americans who consume them to relieve stress, said Dr. Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., senior executive vice-president and chief scientific officer, for Fortitech, Inc., Schenectady, N.Y. He listed these ingredients in a recent webinar.

Stress-reducing ingredients

• coenzyme Q10

• green tea

• vitamins A, C and E

• superfruits

• aloe vera

• gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

• St. John’s wort

Potential applications

• yogurt

• dairy products

• beverages

• chocolate

• bars

Potential challenges

• solubility

• pH

•stability of nutrients

• type of product

• dose/bioavailability

• interaction between nutrients

• effects of interaction on bioavailability

• effect on taste, flavor or color

• safety/toxicity

Raise a glass for joint health

Glucosamine survives in acidic environments such as orange juice

Some ingredients fail to survive in acidic environments. That is not the case for glucosamine, known for its joint health benefits.

"In fact, that is where stability of the ingredient is best, particularly at a pH under 5," said Brent Rogers, technical services manager for Cargill Corn Milling, North America. "Orange juice is one example of this. Other fruit and vegetable juices, functional waters, sports drinks and some flavored teas, smoothies and yogurts are other examples.

"In these types of products, Regenasure glucosamine can be added along with other dry ingredients, and it is readily water soluble."

An independent evaluation determined Regenasure glucosamine to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in specific food and beverage applications in 2007. That same year The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, launched Minute Maid Active Pure Squeezed Orange Juice, which contains 750 mg of Regenaure glucosamine per serving.

"Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid found success in line extensions with specific functional claims — joint health, heart health and immunity boost," said Mintel in its "Functional Beverages – U.S. – August 2008" report. Functional juice and juice drinks account for 56% of the total U.S. functional beverage market, which reached $10.1 billion in sales in 2007, according to the report.

"Connecting the positive research on fruit juice consumption and launching specific functional claims — heart-healthy, promotes joint health or digestive health, etc. — in orange juice, the most frequently purchased functional beverage, is likely to stimulate growth in the segment," the report said.

Glucosamine, a molecule naturally derived in the body by cellular metabolism, is a building block of joint cartilage and joint fluid, according to Cargill. In vitro, animal and human studies have investigated the effects of glucosamine, said Mike Fleagle, Regenasure product manager for Cargill Corn Milling, North America.

Glucosamine hydrochloride is more preferable to work with than glucosamine sulfate when considering taste in applications, Mr. Rogers said. Glucosamine often is formulated in products with fruit flavors, which helps increase the sweetness and acidity, and is complementary to addressing the salt/bitter characteristic that some people describe with glucosamine, he said.

Stability may be an issue with beverages such as dairy and teas that are neutral pH.

"To some extent this can be mitigated with refrigeration and shorter shelf life, and Cargill is investigating other technologies that could provide innovation opportunity in this area," Mr. Rogers said.

Mr. Fleagle added, "We are working on solutions for other food products in addition to beverages for joint health products."

He said baked foods and dairy products are two potential applications.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, November 25, 2008, starting on Page 41. Click here to search that archive.

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