Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Government pressure steers reformulation

February 24th, 2018
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Salt, sugar and fat long remain to be the perennial villains in the food industry with many food manufacturers and companies looking for healthier ways to reformulate products. Salt is often associated with health conditions, excessive consumption of salt is known to affect heart health and blood pressure, and more recent studies have confirmed that a high-salt diet reduces resting blood flow to the brain and may cause dementia. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the essential minerals in salt can act as important electrolytes in the body. They help with fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function. There are often conflicting messages that leaves many consumers questioning: “How much is too much?” and “Should I be concerned about salt consumption?” FoodIngredientsFirst takes a close look at what is happening in the industry.

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency introduced a traffic light system to help consumers eat more healthily and highlight the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fats on packaged foods, which can be a good indicator of how healthy a packaged product actually is. More often than not, seemingly “healthy” food is laden with salt, sugar and saturated fats, that otherwise, UK consumers would not be aware of.
A diet high in sodium and low in potassium raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if the global sodium consumption would be reduced to the recommended value maximum of 2g per day which corresponds to 5g of salt per day.
Within food, salt can be an important ingredient for shelf life, stabilization, and more importantly, taste. Pre-packaged goods fit in line with many of today’s consumers, who commute daily for work and have very busy hectic lives. Convenience food options are often the “go-to” for quick lunches and easy dinners, but there are categories in which sodium is used to a high level, in breakfast cereals and bakery items.
80 percent of the sodium we eat is in the food we buy, according to Marie Tolkemit, Junior Product Manager of Specialties at Jungbunzlaur. “Looking into statistics it is easy to see that the most sodium we eat comes from processed foods, bakery and meat. So within these categories is the most potential to reduce sodium,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“We do see a growing governmental pressure to reduce sodium in various countries (e.g. US, Chile, Israel, South Africa, UK) around the globe. In these countries, the governments have already set targets to reduce the sodium intake within their population and the food industry has to follow these targets, in consequence, the awareness to reduce sodium in rising within the population,” she explains.
Next, to these governmental targets, some companies like Nestlé and Mondel?z have set their own sodium targets they want to reach within the next years, which they actively communicate to their customers.
“If we look at consumer surveys we can see that low sodium products are after Low sugar and GMO-free the top 3 requested products,” Tolkemit adds.
“If we look at the claims at newly launched products, we find that most of the low sodium products, entering the market are not actively promoted as being lower in sodium. So the industry might fear that the customers think that a product which has lower sodium content is less tasty,” she claims.
Also speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Christiane Lippert, Head of Marketing at Lycored said: “Governments and health bodies across the world have prioritized sodium reduction and consumers are responding – more than six in ten Americans have now cut back on foods higher in salt. The pressure to reduce sodium is often seen as a challenge, but it’s a big opportunity to add qualities that appeal to consumers – in particular, improved taste and umami impact.”
“Cardiovascular disease now accounts for around three in ten deaths worldwide – more than any other illness. Given the link between excessive sodium intake and heart disease, sodium reduction isn’t going to fall off the agenda any time soon,” she explains.
“Salt and sugar are similar in that they’re both necessary for moderation, but dangerous in excess. Average salt intake worldwide is 9-12 grams per day, which is double the recommended maximum level,” Lippert reveals.
David Hart, Business Unit Director for Salt of The Earth also states that food containing less sodium is unambiguously healthier and helps people reach the WHO recommended intake of 5 grams of salt per day. And according to Hart, it is mostly Western countries that have average consumption levels of almost twice the WHO recommendations.
“As long as sodium/salt consumption is significantly above the WHO recommended intake of 5 grams of salt per day, sodium reduction will be a focus,” he notes. “More than 75 countries have national programs for salt/sodium reduction, and these efforts range from consumer education to maximum sodium limits in food, front-of-package labeling and even tax on high-salt foods. These programs are a catalyst for the industry to find solutions for lower salt products.”

Health, Ingredients

Are probiotics the next protein?

February 3rd, 2018
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As consumers search for new ways to manage their health, probiotics may be the next source they turn to. According to “The Gut Health Mega-Trend” report by Schieber Research, phrases like “best foods for gut health” have seen a 350% increase in Google searches over the past five years while “best foods for inflammation” has seen a 250% increase.

“The rapid growth of the global probiotics market is due to increased interest in functional foods as well as rising incidence of digestive and gastrointestinal disorders,” said Rosanna Pecere, executive director, International Probiotics Association Europe. “Consumers are becoming more aware that a well-balanced microbiota is essential for the normal functioning of the body, and they’re looking for ways to ensure that the correct balance is maintained.”

A recent survey of 220 nutraceutical industry professionals by the organizers of Vita Foods Europe revealed that food companies and ingredient developers are listening to this growing demand. When asked to choose the three most important health benefit areas for their companies, nearly 23% of respondents named digestive health, with the same number identifying general wellbeing and healthy ageing. This was the first time that digestive health has been a top concern for the industry in the three times that the poll has been conducted.

“Growth in the functional food and beverage market has also been driven by consumer interest in healthy living,” said Yiannis Kourkoutas, Ph.D., Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Democritus University of Thrace. “This is particularly true among younger demographics, but population ageing has also been conducive to sector expansion.”

Dr. Kourkoutas noted that large-scale research efforts have found that the composition of gut microbiota is associated with a growing number of health problems besides local gastro-intestinal disorders, which include neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

As more research supporting probiotic claims emerges, bakers and snack makers have begun tapping into this growing health trend.

“We’re seeing innovation in snacking with added probiotics like never before,” said Elizabeth Moskow, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group. “With the invention of shelf-stable and heat-resistant, lab-created probiotics — we’re seeing snacks from popcorn to kale chips coming out with added benefits.”

Living Intentions is an early adopter of the trend and offers a line of popcorn that contains 2 billion colony-forming units of probiotic cultures. The snack is available in four varieties: Tandoori Turmeric, Salsa Verde, Cinnamon Twist and Berry Smoothie.

For consumers looking for a nutrient-dense breakfast, flapJacked delivers a line of probiotic muffins with 20 grams of protein. The company’s Mighty Muffins use GanedenBC30 to impart digestive benefits and offer a convenient way for on-the-go consumers to enjoy a healthy snack.

Bakeries such as ShaSha Co. also have launched probiotic products. The company offers four flavors of organic cookies, which include lemon ginger, cocoa and ginger snaps. The baked foods are made with whole grain flour and contain both prebiotics and probiotics.

While adding popular nutrients such as protein and fiber to products has become a prevalent default, opportunities abound when it comes to developing snacking items with probiotics.



Health, Ingredients ,

Food Innovations for Health

January 27th, 2018
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At the same time, consumers today have access to a wealth of information to understand the causes of chronic diseases and how to prevent them. This is driving them to take a more active role in their health, starting with their diets. In Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey, 70 percent of global respondents say they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. What’s more, a recent survey by Asia Opinions has revealed that Asian consumers are far more interested in healthy eating compared to their western counterparts, with 68 percent of Asian respondents saying they were ‘very interested’ compared to just 38 percent of western consumers.

Out of this, diets that limit sugar are among the most common. One of the major contributing factors to this is the growing body of scientific research that link excessive sugar intake with several health concerns such as tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The sharp increase in people affected by diabetes has also caused a surge in demand for healthier food options, and food and beverage manufacturers have an opportunity to reduce the sugar content in their products, and also to offer a wider range of reduced sugar options to meet this growing demand. For example, Nielsen’s study has also found that Asia-Pacific consumers place healthful food options at the top of their considerations the most compared to other regions when dining out.

Taste is still king

Although consumers are looking for healthier alternatives to food and beverage products, they are still very conscious about the taste and eating experience. In other words, a better tasting product would be more successful on the shelves, compared to an equally healthy but poorer tasting alternative.

To meet this goal of providing a healthy yet great tasting product, manufacturers use alternative sweeteners in their portfolio of food and drinks to either achieve low or zero sugar claims, in order to satisfy the consumers’ sweet tooth with less calories and negative side effects associated with sugar. However, true sugar replacement remains the holy grail, as it is difficult to fully replace sugar and replicate its unique physicochemical properties. This includes properties that affect processing, taste and texture such as the freezing point, browning effect, viscosity, specific gravity and water activity of sugar. This is why many of today’s alternative sweeteners come with trade-offs that cause them to be perceived differently to sugars by the consumer. Additionally, some high intensity sweeteners (HIS) leave a bitter aftertaste due to them binding more strongly to sweetness receptions.

Overcoming the challenges of taste and texture

Because every sweetener has its own physicochemical properties, no single sweetener can replace sugar in its entirety. In order to overcome this challenge, the latest technologies give manufacturers the ability to use the right combination of sweeteners to provide a better taste and texture profile. This also enables manufacturers to meet their sweetness targets quicker.

To do so, manufacturers will have to invest a considerable amount of effort and time to get a complete understanding of the range of sweeteners in the market and how each one will contribute to the overall nature of the final product. Critically, an in-depth understanding of how consumers perceive the subtle differences in sweetness types will require conversion of this sensory feedback into measurable, scientific terms. This is because sweetness has multiple subtle differences. For example, a fresh, fruity sweetness can be very different from a caramel, malty sweetness, and breaking down how the consumer would perceive each type with the help of consumer insights and sensory analytics is the first step to successful sugar reduced formulation. Additionally, specific processing parameters and production flow have to be considered to minimize disruption and ensure that cost targets are not compromised.

At Ingredion, they call this DIAL-IN Technology. This consumer centric approach is a mix of data, experience and process knowledge that follows a structured process to rapidly achieve the right product formulation, taste and texture that full sugared products have. Manufacturers will be able to isolate any flavor note that appeals to the consumer, which will form the basis of building up the exact flavor profile in their new product.

Fiber fortification in food products

There is also an emergence of consumers demanding food products with added health benefits, such as fiberfortification and calorie and carbohydrate reduction. Complementing the trend towards disease prevention, new product developments that are part of a high-fiber diet help consumers improve digestive health, weight management and cholesterol levels. As the significance of healthy foods gain momentum all across the region, an increase in consumer awareness and knowledge about dietary fiber and the health benefits associated with increased dietary fiber consumption is also on the rise. According to research data by MarketsandMarkets, this is especially seen in Australia, China, India and Japan, who lead the region in fiber consumption.

A high-fiber diet also reduces the risks of developing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, constipation and colon cancer. The American Heart Association suggests that the daily value for fiber is 25 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet, yet the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) indicates that dietary fiber is an under-consumed nutrient and recommends consumers to increase their intake to reduce the risk of potential health concerns.

Challenges of fiber fortification

As manufacturers work to increase the fiber content in products, there is a constant battle between achieving positive health benefits, label claims and maintaining the appealing taste, texture and appearance of a product. However, fiber has come a long way, and today manufacturers are able to precisely increase the dosage of fiber, and have little to no impact on product taste, texture or appearance. Novel fibers can be easily applied to a wide range of foods including bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, breakfast drinks, snacks, noodles and more. Additionally, manufacturers are also able to achieve clean label and grain-free products with differentiated fiber claims and health benefit claims to further appeal to health conscious consumers.

Resistant starch – the hidden fiber

With the latest technology, manufacturers have access to a wider range of fiber sources, and it is now easier to incorporate fiber into foods. One example of an alternative fiber source is resistant starch. The unique appeal of resistant starch is that it is an invisible ‘fiber’ which makes it suitable for products like bread, pasta, fruit smoothies and protein shakes. This allows manufacturers to include fiber into everyday consumer foods, so that they can get the benefits of high fiber products without having consumers compromise taste or their food choices.

Resistant starches are fermented only in the large intestine and have bifi dogenic properties, which in turn brings a number of beneficial changes to digestive health. Resistant starches have been clinically proven to lower the risk of diabetes. Backed by over 80 published clinical studies, HI-MAIZE, an RS2 type of resistant starch made from non-genetically modified high amylose corn has been clinically proven to lower the risk of diabetes. It is also approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), resulting in a qualified health claim that will enable manufacturers to communicate the relationship between high-amylose maize resistant starch and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes on the packages of conventional foods. HI-MAIZE also allows for clean label and gluten-free claims to be made.


As consumers become more health conscious, they are continuously looking for ways to deal with health risks. It has caused an increase in demand for foods to be healthier, packed with health benefits and taste just as good. However, with these latest ingredient solutions, manufacturers are able to rapidly reformulate or develop new products that can satisfy all the needs and demands of the modern consumer, allowing them to enjoy healthier food and beverages without demanding that they change the way they eat.

Source: Asia Food Journal



Health ,

How flawed science helped turn chocolate into a health food

November 11th, 2017
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A small and preliminary study was hyped to claim that chocolate fights Alzheimer’s.

Have you heard? Dark chocolate will do everything from boost your cognition to reduce your cardiovascular disease risk and even help you lose weight! Or so the chocolate science hype machine will tell you.

Several months ago, we got to wondering how chocolate candy had earned such a powerful health halo. So we dove into the science behind these claims about chocolate and cocoa to find out more.

In an original Vox analysis, we discovered that food companies like Nestlé, Mars, Barry Callebaut, and Hershey’s — among the world’s biggest producers of chocolate — have poured millions of dollars into scientific studies and research grants that support cocoa science. Of the 100 Mars-sponsored studies on cocoa, chocolate, and health, 98 had conclusions that were favorable to the candy maker in some way.

That’s an uncannily high number. And it raises questions about the quality of the studies, given that Mars and other chocolate makers can use the positive findings to market their products. Industry-sponsored studies are more likely than independent research to yield conclusions that favor the funder’s products.

In our review of the research, we found studies that were well-designed, well-executed, and that produced seemingly reliable results. (This was particularly true for the science on cocoa’s effects on blood pressure.) But some of the other claims don’t stand up as well when you look closely at the evidence.

One study in particular about cocoa staving off cognitive decline jumped out at us because it had sparked a small fracas on PubMed Commons, a site where researchers can comment on published studies. Several researchers took the time to critique everything from the study’s design and statistical analysis to how it was reported in the journal where it was published, Nature Neuroscience.

This Mars-sponsored study, led by researchers from Columbia University, was published in 2014. The researchers had wanted to test whether taking cocoa supplements might enhance a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus that deteriorates with age and is associated with age-related memory loss. They concluded that cocoa supplements — particularly the micronutrients called flavanols in them — can indeed boost cognition in older adults.

The research didn’t come out of a vacuum. Previous studies, particularly those focused on aging in rats, suggested flavanols might prevent cognitive decline. But upon closer examination, it became clear that this particular study was very small and preliminary — and that there were several problems with its design that made its results unreliable. That didn’t stop the chocolate hype machine, though. The paper was trumpeted by the Columbia University press office and large media outlets as more evidence that cocoa and chocolate can fight Alzheimer’s.

Ultimately, the study shows how scientists and the media have seized upon the narrative that chocolate is a health food — even when only the thinnest evidence supports the wishful claim.

The cocoa study was short, small, and focused on narrow outcomes that don’t matter to the real world

Before we dive into what made this Nature Neuroscience study suspicious, let’s look at what it was about. The researchers randomly assigned 37 people to one of four groups for a period of three months:

  1. A group that got a high daily dose (900 mg) of cocoa flavanol supplements as well as one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  2. A group that got the same high dose of cocoa flavanol supplements but without the exercise
  3. A control group that got a low dose of cocoa flavanols (10mg) with the one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  4. Another control group that got the low cocoa flavanol dose but without the exercise

So basically, the study participants either got a lot of cocoa flavanols or not, and added regular exercise to their lifestyles or not.

The researchers wanted to test whether cocoa flavanol supplements might stave off cognitive decline in the dentate gyrus region of the brain, which is associated with age-related memory loss. They also wanted to see if exercise had any effect on memory, since previous studies had suggested it might.

In the study, they found that exercise had no impact on brain function — but cocoa flavanols did. “Dietary cocoa flavanol consumption enhanced [dentate gyrus] function in the aging human hippocampal circuit,” they concluded. They also made extremely bold statements in the paper, even suggesting that the effects they saw in the high-flavanol group demonstrated that cocoa could reverse age-related memory decline by as many as three decades.

Columbia University’s newsroom touted the research as demonstrating that “dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline.” The research was then picked up by media outlets, including the New York Times, which trumpeted chocolate — not just cocoa dietary supplements — as a memory aid.

But here’s the thing: The study never actually proved that cocoa supplements, and especially not chocolate, could prevent memory decline. It was too small, too narrowly focused, and too short-lived to tell us anything important about real memory loss with aging, said Henry Drysdale, a doctor and fellow at Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine.

To track memory decline, the main outcomes the researchers used over a 12-week period were an fMRI test that looked at increases cerebral blood volume, as well as a cognitive function test — the Modified Benton — which was developed at Columbia to measure dentate gyrus function. The researchers who validated the test found that people’s performance on the ModBent worsened with age, so they had reason to believe that this test would be a good marker of whether flavanols could make a difference here.

“Saying if you eat cocoa supplements now you’re going to have better memory in three months is not relevant to real-world [age-related memory decline],” said Drysdale, who co-founded Oxford’s COMPare Trials project which examines the quality of clinical trials.

If you really want to answer that question, you’d run the trial for several years and you’d need a group of study participants that’s bigger than 37 people. Instead of only tracking the study participants’ brain waves in an MRI machine (which is not a measure of cognitive ability), or using an object recognition task (the ModBent) to test memory, you’d also want to measure outcomes that matter in people’s lives, like, whether those taking cocoa could remember what they did that morning or that they had a doctor’s appointment next week better than the people who didn’t take the cocoa, Drysdale added.

This trial only demonstrated that supplements seem to enhance brain function over a period of weeks, and only according to a very specific (and not very widely used) test of cognitive function. That is far from valid proof that cocoa is a memory enhancer.

The researchers did other things that made the results unreliable

Drysdale and other researchers who were not involved with this study also took issue with it for much nerdier reasons. There are problems with how the study was reported that made its results less likely to be reliable — and even less worthy of the hype.

For one thing, the published version of the study looks different from what the researchers originally said they’d set out to do for this trial.

To understand why this matters, let’s step back for a moment.

Before researchers embark on clinical trials, they’re supposed to name (or “pre-specify”) which health outcomes they’re most interested in on a public database, like

For an antidepressant, these might include people’s reports on their mood, or how the drug affects sleep, sexual desire, and even suicidal thoughts. Researchers then group the outcomes into “primary” and “secondary” categories — the primary outcomes being the ones they think are most important — and describe precisely how and when they are going to measure these things.

Scientists are then supposed to broadly stick to this plan when they run their trial, and report on their findings in a journal. If they deviate from their plan, they need to be transparent about it and explain why they did so in the final journal article.

The idea is that researchers won’t just change their plans along the way, or publish positive or more favorable outcomes that turn up during the study, while ignoring or hiding important results that don’t quite materialize as they were hoping. (That’s a sneaky practice called “outcome switching,” and it’s a big problem in science.) Following these steps also enhances the chances that the findings researchers report on are real, not the result of tweaking a study’s design to get splashier conclusions.

But this didn’t happen in the case of this cocoa study. has a handy version control function that lets you see all the changes that were made to a clinical trials registry over time. It shows that the researchers for this cocoa study changed their outcomes over time, and also failed to clearly pre-specify them before starting the trial. They then didn’t report about the changes they made in their final study, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

For example, if you look at the earliest version of their report, from 2010, the researchers stated that the primary outcome they were interested in was an fMRI test that measures cerebral blood volume. The secondary outcome they were going to look for was “neurocognitive function” — but they didn’t say which test they’d use to measure neurocognitive function. In the published trial, the ModBent appeared as a second primary outcome along with the fMRI.

“If you don’t pre-specify your method of measurement of an outcome — in this case ‘neurocognitive function’ — you are free to choose, consciously or unconsciously, from a range of possible outcomes,” said Drysdale. “You can then pick the outcome that makes your chocolate look good. That’s not to say authors will always do this with vaguely pre-specified outcomes, but the option is there.” In this case, the researchers settled on the ModBent task as their primary outcome (in addition to the fMRI).

I asked the authors on the study why they failed to fully pre-specify their outcomes, and why they didn’t report all the changes they made in their original plan in the final version of the report, like they’re supposed to do. They said they were new to entering clinical trials data on registries, and that they didn’t realize they had to declare changes they had made to their study design in the final study. Whatever the reason, though, these errors in reporting are likely to make their findings less reliable, said Drysdale.

If you look at the most recent version of their clinical trials registry, it was published in January 2015, three months after they published their Nature Neuroscience article. “So they went back after article was published in Nature and changed their clinical trial registry. There is no mention of this in the trial report,” Drysdale added.

To be clear, this cocoa study is not unique. Hype in research is on the rise, and outcome switching is common — as prevalent in industry-sponsored research as it is in independent academic research. But the paper shows how, consciously or unconsciously, studies can be tweaked and exaggerated in ways that can yield misleading conclusions.

“The bigger concern is that people are trying to do a better job of selling the research itself and not just telling what the straight out answer is,” University of Toronto nutrition researcher Richard Bazinet said. This study only showed that over a period of three months, in a small group, according to a very narrow test that taps a very specific region of the brain, cocoa supplements enhanced cognition. That became “chocolate fights Alzheimer’s” — a message Mars surely appreciated.




Chocolate, Health, Research , , ,

Fat replacers market estimated to be worth US$2.01 billion by 2022

October 7th, 2017
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New research shows that the fat replacers market is becoming an increasingly profitable one as consumers become increasingly health-conscious.

New research from MarketsandMarkets™ has revealed that the fat replacers market is estimated to be worth US$1.48 Billion in 2017, and is projected to reach USD 2.01 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 6.2% from 2017. Major factors driving this increase are the increasing consumer awareness about health & wellness, and the rise in prevalence of obesity.

The protein-based fat replacers segment is projected to be the fastest-growing in this market. Already, protein consumption is growing in demand for health and aesthetic purposes, and the demand for food products with high-protein but low-fat content is expected to contribute significantly to the growth of the protein-based fat replacers market.

The bakery & confectionery products segment has so far accounted for the largest share in the fat replacers market. Consumers in developed regions such as North America and Europe have become increasingly conscious about leading a healthy lifestyle, leading to a demand for the reduction of fat content in bakery & confectionery products. Products such as cakes and pastries increasingly require fat replacers for consumers who demand low-fat and low-calorie options. This trend has led to considerable market opportunities for bakery & confectionery products segment during the forecast period.

In terms of growth though, the liquid segment is projected to be the fastest-growing in the market. The rise in demand for convenience foods is likely to drive the market for liquid fat replacers as they are used to replace fatty oils, thereby contributing significantly. They also provide a glossy texture and help prevent stickiness on confectionery products.

Additionally, Asia Pacific is projected to be the fastest-growing region in this area due to its growing economy. Various factors such as rapid urbanization, changes in lifestyle, and increase in demand for convenience products are driving the growth of the food & beverages sector. China especially has witnessed rapid growth in this market due to concerns about the adverse effects of fats and calories, and a growth in consumer awareness regarding the maintenance of a healthy diet. The high consumption of convenience foods in countries such as India, China, and Malaysia is expected to drive the demand for fat replacers in these regions.

Currently, key players in the fat replacer market include ADM (USA), DuPont (USA), Cargill (USA), Kerry Group (Ireland), FMC Corporation (USA), Ashland Inc (USA), Ingredion (USA), and Koninklijke DSM (Netherlands).

Source: Asia Food Journal


Health, Ingredients

Why chocolate is good for your gut

September 23rd, 2017
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Chocolate lovers, rejoice; the sweet treat is not only delicious, but studies show that it can also promote friendly bacteria and reduce inflammation in our guts.

First, some background: trillions of bacteria live in our guts. They contribute to our immune system, metabolism, and many other processes essential to human health.

When the delicate balance of microbes in our intestines is disturbed, it can have serious consequences.

Irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, allergies, asthma, and cancer have all been linked to abnormal gut microbiomes.

A healthful diet supports bacterial diversity and health, but could chocolate be an integral part of this?

Benefits of cocoa

Cocoa is the dry, non-fatty component prepared from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree and the ingredient that gives chocolate its characteristic taste.

Many health benefits have been attributed to cocoa and its potent antioxidant functions. These include lowering cholesterol, slowing down cognitive decline, and keeping the heart healthy.

Cocoa metabolism is partly dependent on the bacteria that live in our intestines.

Our bodies are only able to absorb some of the nutrients in chocolate. As such, we need our tiny microbial passengers to break complex molecules into smaller components, which we would not be able to take into our bodies otherwise.

This allows us to make full use of the many health-promoting molecules in cocoa. It doesn’t stop there, however. The gut microbes also benefit from this relationship, which, in turn, has an even greater effect on our health.

Gut health and inflammation

Several studies show that the consumption of cocoa increases the levels of so-called friendly bacteria in the gut.

Researchers from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom measured higher levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in the intestines of human volunteers who drank high-cocoa chocolate milk for 4 weeks.

The same team previously showed that components in cocoa can reduce the growth of Clostridium histolyticum bacteria, which are present in the guts of individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

In pigs, higher levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species were also found in the colon in response to a high-cocoa diet. Interestingly, the expression of known inflammatory markers was reduced.

Friendly bacteria including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have, in fact, been implicated in actively promoting anti-inflammatory processes in our intestines, keeping our gut healthy.

Chocolate as part of a healthful diet

Despite the fact that these scientific studies support the claim that cocoa can be beneficial for our gut microbiomes, cocoa does not equal chocolate.

The cocoa extracts used in research do not contain the high levels of sugar and fat found in our everyday chocolate bars.

Unsweetened cocoa powder or high-cocoa content dark chocolate are the closest alternatives to the cocoa used in these studies. Consumed in moderation, chocolate may therefore promote friendly bacteria, and, by extension, a healthy gut, keeping inflammation at bay.

When choosing your next chocolate treat, join the Medical News Today editorial team in their choice and opt for a nice piece of dark chocolate.



Chocolate, Health

Reaction: UK food industry welcomes sugar reduction target

April 8th, 2017
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Stakeholders in the UK’s food industry have begun to respond to Public Health England’s call for a 20% reduction in the amount of sugar in food products.

The director general of the Food and Drink Federation, Ian Wright, called the target ‘stretching’ but said that manufacturers were willing to take on the challenge. The British Nutrition Foundation and British Dietetic Association both announced their support.

FoodBev has compiled som of the key quotes about this morning’s announcement from important industry figures.

Ian Wright
Food and Drink Federation director general

“Obesity levels in the UK are unacceptably high. Physical inactivity is a factor, but for many the problem overwhelmingly is with excess calories in the diet. With many of these calories coming from sugars, we support the Government’s highly ambitious sugars reduction drive.

“Today’s report represents a constructive platform on which to build a world-leading programme of voluntary sugars reduction, right across food and drink. All parts of the food industry – manufacturers, retailers, takeaways, restaurants and cafés – need to step up. The guidelines are very stretching but manufacturers, for our part, are willing to take on the challenge.

“Manufacturers know the special place their products have in people’s lives. Companies are working hard to overcome technical challenges and make gradual tweaks to favourite foods that regular customers can accept. They are also developing new low sugar alternatives. In some foods, portion size reductions will be necessary.

“This programme is only one piece of a much wider jigsaw of work that needs to be done to move towards better overall diets and more active lifestyles. We look forward to continuing to work closely with PHE and other partners as the programme moves from design into implementation.”

Prof Judy Buttriss
British Nutrition Foundation director general

“The new government recommendation to reduce our intake of free sugars… is very challenging and action across all sectors, including out-of-home food outlets, is going to be key to any success. Some companies have already made significant changes to the sugar and calorie content of their products and there have been some encouraging announcements of plans by industry to step up to the challenge, but there is more to be done.

“Organisations such as the BDA and BNF, which provide evidence-based information to help the public choose a healthier diet, have an important role to play to explain to the public the changes that are being made to products and how to put recommendations on sugars reduction into practice. This includes promoting the idea that smaller portions are a positive step to reduce our energy intakes and contribute to the fight against the obesity problem we face in Britain”.

Sue Kellie
British Dietetic Association deputy chief executive

“The BDA believes that the government now needs to commit to further action in areas such as advertising and promotions. Reducing the sugar in foods is certainly one way to tackle obesity, but behaviours need to change as well. The BDA would suggest that, whilst there are new tougher advertising guidelines on non-broadcasting media, this does not go far enough. The government needs to further restrict the advertising of high-fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods before the 9pm watershed and ban promotions on those same products.

“Providing education around healthy eating as standard is also important. Dietitians have the tools and skills to drive behaviour change and help children and families to prepare and maintain a healthy diet. Many are already working in successful programmes across the UK, which could be expanded with further support. If we are to successfully tackle obesity and reduce its long term costs to the NHS and wider economy, we need to change attitudes and habits over the long term – there’s no quick fix.”

Prof Kathy Groves
Leatherhead Food Research head of microscopy

“New guidelines from Public Health England to reduce sugar in everyday foods eaten by children create complex challenges that call for science-led innovation. Reformulation of food products is a common response to health-related issues. However, in the case of sugar reduction, this is not straightforward.

“Depending on the properties of the product in question, sugar can contribute much more than taste. It has preservation qualities, so plays a role in the shelf-life of a product. It also impacts texture, aeration, fermentation (for products containing yeast), bulk and visual appeal. Food manufacturers need to consider interactions between ingredients in a recipe to understand how sugar reduction or replacement will affect the finished product.

“A scientific approach known as ‘blueprinting’, which creates a technical map of a product, is an effective way to address these complex challenges. It considers both the sensory and scientific attributes that explain its profile, drawing on microscopy, microbiology and rheology. This enables objective analysis of properties such as ‘crunch’, ‘creaminess’, ‘lightness’ or ‘smoothness’. Understanding the science that underpins these attributes facilitates more intelligent and efficient product development, with reduced risk.”

Dan Finke
IRI UK managing director

“We’ve known that the Public Health England’s sugar reduction programme has been coming for a while. Eventually all sectors of the food and drinks industry will be challenged to reduce overall sugar across a range of products that contribute to children’s sugar intakes by at least 20% by 2020.

“While Public Health England has made it clear that lowering sugar levels, reducing product size or pushing healthier products are three key options for manufacturers, it is
clear to us that there’s fourth spoke in the wheel: pricing. Promotions in the UK currently account for 40% of all expenditure on food and drink. Even though government stopped
short of legislating against the use of promotions, it is clear that use of promotions will need to reduce as they increase the amount of food and drink people buy by around one-fifth. Food and drink suppliers need to behave responsibly, which likely means a change in the pricing and promotional regime.

“Many suppliers have already been cutting the depth of promotions on offer to shoppers to help offset rising cost pressures. However, basic product pricing (on average across all supermarkets) has not risen in three years. As #Marmitegate highlighted, manufacturers can recommend pricing for their products to retailers but can’t control how much the retailers sell for. Retailers need to play their part too.

“Innovation is also important. IRI analysis shows that, in the UK, high sugar products are still a major contributor to new product development despite an increase in demand from shoppers for healthier food alternatives such as gluten free, non-dairy milk, juices and fortified waters. Suppliers need to work harder to respond to changing consumer trends.”



Health, Ingredients

EFSA to give advice on the intake of sugar added to food

March 25th, 2017
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EFSA will provide scientific advice on the daily intake of added sugar in food by early 2020. The Authority aims to establish a science-based cut-off value for daily exposure to added sugars from all sources which is not associated with adverse health effects. The work will be carried out following a request from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Added sugars from all sources comprise sucrose, fructose, glucose, starch hydrolysates such as glucose syrup, high-fructose syrup, and other sugar preparations consumed as such or added during food preparation and manufacturing.

The adverse health effects under consideration will include body weight, glucose intolerance and insulin sensitivity, type-2-diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors, as well as dental caries. In its assessment, EFSA will look at the general healthy population, including children, adolescents, adults and the elderly.

The advice will guide Member States when establishing recommendations for the consumption of added sugars and in planning food-based dietary guidelines.

Sweden is coordinating the request to EFSA on behalf of the five Nordic countries. Annica Sohlström, the Director General of the Swedish National Food Agency, said: “We welcome EFSA’s acceptance of the mandate which reflects the need to scientifically evaluate the links between added sugar and health at a European level.”

What is going to happen next?

EFSA will establish an ad-hoc working group with expertise in dietary exposure, epidemiology, human nutrition, diet-related chronic diseases and dentistry. The five Nordic countries that initiated this mandate will be invited to the working group as observers.

EFSA will use its established methodology to develop a protocol on how to carry out the assessment. Known as Prometheus – PROmoting METHods for Evidence Use in Scientific assessments – the method shows how EFSA selects evidence, how this evidence contributes to the risk assessment and how EFSA reports on the entire process and it results.

In line with its commitment to openness and transparency, EFSA will engage with stakeholders throughout the assessment process. It will hold two public consultations, inviting feedback on the draft protocol in the first half of 2018 and on the draft opinion in late 2019, which will also involve a face-to-face meeting with stakeholders.


In 2010, EFSA published its Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for carbohydrates and dietary fibre, which also included sugar. At this time, the available evidence was insufficient to set an upper limit for the daily intake of total or added sugars. New scientific evidence has come to light since then. There has also been growing public interest in the impact of the consumption of sugar-containing foods and beverages on human health.

Source: EFSA


Health, Ingredients , ,

Gluten Free Industry Association Formed

January 14th, 2017
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The gluten-free market is increasing at such a rapid pace that a new industry association has been officially set up to support companies in the gluten-free space.

Britain’s annual sales of gluten-free products has increased 26.7 percent in the last two years, currently worth £585.6m (US$711.2 million) and sales are projected to reach £673 million (US$817.2 million) by 2020.

Gluten-free forms the largest section of the free from category accounting for almost 60 percent. This has increased by 36 percent over 2014/15.

The Gluten Free Industry Association will bring together gluten free from food manufacturers and companies to ensure the high standards of the sector and to provide additional consumer confidence.

The priorities for the year ahead include developing the best practice guidelines on ingredient sourcing and gluten-testing methodology.

“We are very pleased to be launching the Gluten Free Industry Association. The GFIA provides a single point of contact for this fast-changing sector whilst encouraging the major suppliers to come together and share best practice to deliver the high quality their consumers expect,” says Simon Wright, Founder of OF+ Consulting and GFIA chairman.

GFIA founder members include Bells of Lazonby, BFree Foods, Delicious Alchemy, Dr Schar, Genius Foods, Mrs Crimbles, Nairns Oatcakes, Northumbrian Fine Foods, and Warburtons.
The GFIA is a full member Association of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and FDF will provide the secretariat for the Association.

“As the national charity for people with coeliac disease, it’s great to see this latest step in the maturation of the gluten free sector. A new association devoted to gluten free manufacturing will help the industry work together to tackle consistency and safety for the benefit of consumers and keep growing this vibrant new market. We look forward to working with the GFIA to ensure the needs of people with coeliac disease continue to be met, says Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK.

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, Director, FreeFrom Awards, adds: “We are very pleased that gluten free manufacturers are coming together in an attempt to improve consistency and confidence in the manufacture of gluten free foods and especially in the supply chain. This can only be good for the industry and, in the long run, of significant benefit to the gluten free consumer.”




Turmeric: Golden Root for Baking

January 14th, 2017
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Turmeric is becoming well known for its health benefits and flavour profile

Native to Indonesia and Southern India, turmeric has been harvested for more than 5,000 years and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and a textile dye. It’s a spice with a peppery fragrant flavour, and it’s part of the ginger family of herbs. Often used in curries, sauces and soups, most recently, turmeric is popping up in teas, drinks, smoothies, breads and baked goods.
Turmeric has become a more mainstream ingredient in Canada and the U.S. for a variety of reasons including its health benefits. In a recent NutraIngredients-USA article (September 22, 2016), Stephen Daniells summarizes the data published in ABC’s HerbalGram 111 report. It indicated turmeric/curcumin was the standout ingredient in 2015 with overall sales for the ingredient exceeding $50 million in mass and natural channels. It has a 118 per cent growth in the mass channel and 32 per cent growth in the natural channel.

We know that a poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress can lead to an increase in inflammatory-related conditions which are key factors in lifestyle diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. From my experience, people are always searching for more everyday foods that taste good and are nutritious. Turmeric is nutritious and is rich in B vitamins, which promotes a healthy nervous system and assists in metabolic functions throughout the body. In addition, turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory.

The active ingredient that has been studied in turmeric is curcumin which is responsible for its deep yellow colour. Research continues to investigate the properties and effects of curcumin specifically as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is thought curcumin plays a role in combating the production of free radical cells and decreasing inflammation which are factors in a variety of disease conditions. More human clinical studies are required in order to fully understand curcumin’s role in reducing the risk of certain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.

The first time I had turmeric in a cake was when I was traveling in Turkey. I believe it was a version of sfouf, which is a traditional Lebanese cake flavoured with turmeric, sugar and nuts. It was a moist, dense cake with an intensely yellow colour. Not having an overly sweet tooth, I like cakes with more of a savoury and/or nutty essence. It was delicious. That was over 15 years ago, and now locally in Canada I’m seeing a few breads, cakes and other baked goods with turmeric.

Turmeric is a traditional ingredient in Indian bread including naan. Sometimes it is an ingredient in the blend or part of a mixture of butter and turmeric that is brushed on the naan and baked until golden. As the Paleo diet trend continues to gain traction, I’ve witnessed more gluten-free breads and wraps made with turmeric. Including a wrap made with coconut meal, coconut water, coconut oil and turmeric, specifically targeted at the niche market.

Restaurant patrons in diverse cities like New York are enjoying turmeric fennel rolls and sweet potato turmeric buns on the menu. On the dessert cart, there is a trend for more savoury whipped creams. Turmeric lends a pale yellow colour to whipped cream, making it unique to look at. It’s slightly earthy bitter flavour is a great contrast to nut-based desserts like pecan pie or walnut cake.

As I’m writing this article about using turmeric in breads and baked goods, it reminds me of six years ago when I wrote a Final Proof column on baking with matcha green tea. It still may be slightly ahead of the trend and the customer conversion point is a few early adopters. Turmeric has common elements to the matcha green tea trend including an ingredient that has been used for centuries in other parts of the world, definite health benefits, plus a strong, unique flavour and colour. Six years later, after writing the matcha green tea column, there is mainstream awareness, acceptance and use of it in breads, cakes, crepes and muffins. So why not dive in and create a delicious feature product with turmeric to offer your early adopter clientele a golden savoury treat?


Bakery, Health, Ingredients