Food for the heart (Part 1): Opportunities, challenges and delivery forms


16 Oct 2017 --- Heart health is literally a matter of life and death – according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the US every year. This means that it accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths. Indeed, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, so potential nutritional solutions are at the forefront of companies’ thinking.

New stories underlining the important impact of the diet on cardiovascular health continue to come out. The failure of pestos to meet salt reduction targets in the UK was a recent example, as was the report that sugar puts healthy people at risk of developing heart disease.

With these sobering statistics and stories top of mind for consumers, NutritionInsight shares today the first part of a special report on the space around food for heart health.

Market opportunities for a change of heart
The demand for heart-healthy foods and ingredients is on the rise, fueled by an increasing focus on heart health worldwide, particularly among aging consumers. This is according to Gordon Hardie, Managing Director, Food & Ingredients, Bunge Limited.

“According to the UN, the number of people aged 60 years or older worldwide is expected to grow by more than 50 percent by 2030,” Hardie says. “Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death globally, and diet can be a big contributor to both the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

Maria Pavlidou, Head of Marketing Communications EMEA, DSM Nutritional Products, Human Nutrition & Health, says the company’s research bears out heart health’s importance. To gain an in-depth overview of key health concerns among different countries, DSM recently conducted a global survey that interviewed 7,541 respondents.

“Heart health was among the top concerns for consumers globally, and was of particular worry to older adults aged 31 to 50 (61 percent) and mature adults aged 51 and over (61 percent),” Pavlidou reports.

Hardie notes that oil- and grain-based foods can play an important role in a heart-healthy diet. “Oils like soybean and canola are low in saturated fat and are also good sources of omega fatty acids,” Hardie explains. “Whole-grain corn, wheat and ancient grains provide dietary fiber and other beneficial nutrients. These foods can contribute to weight management, favorable cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.”

To this end, Hardie points out that the US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Bunge’s petition for a qualified health claim linking soybean oil consumption to reduced risk of heart disease. “Soybean oil is America’s most commonly used ingredient and top dietary source of polyunsaturated fats,” he adds.

NattoPharma’s vitamin K2 is also certainly part of the conversation when it comes to positive heart health ingredients, particularly at a time when low vitamin K intake has been linked to decreased heart health in teens.

Heart health remains one of the top reasons that consumers first seek supplementation, notes Gunilla Traberg, Director of Nordic Accounts & EU Marketing with NattoPharma.

“In fact, NattoPharma sponsored a survey of health- and nutrition-minded individuals (results released early 2016), and bone and heart health were the top reasons respondents supplement (reason 2 and 3, respectively),” Traberg points out.

Attacking heart health challenges
The greatest challenge facing any supplement category is the strict regulatory environment, according to Traberg, but she believes this also points to the greatest opportunity: selecting supplier partners who offer clinically validated ingredients.

“By choosing companies that have done their due diligence of research and clinical validation, like NattoPharma with our MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 as MK-7, manufacturers can more confidently market their products with language that will garner consumer interest while also remaining compliant, whether it be with the EFSA, FDA, or another group,” Traberg adds.

Hardie points out that with so much information out in the world about diet and nutrition, it can also be hard to separate tried-and-true scientific research from one-off studies that can grab big headlines and distort consumer perceptions.

“For example, a single study last year called into question the negative health impacts of butter,” Hardie explains. “Even though most recognized authorities on nutrition and health recommend keeping saturated fat intake at less than 10 percent of total consumption and replacing butter with soybean oil, it is easy to see how news stories claiming ‘butter may be back’ can lead to confusion among consumers.”

Delivery systems to go straight to the heart
Consumers who have decided to take supplements are now less keen on the idea of swallowing pills and are looking for alternative, more enjoyable formats, according to Pavlidou of DSM. Recent product launches to address this growing trend include gummies, drinks and powders that can be consumed without water.

“At DSM, we have the formulation expertise to support manufacturers in producing innovative and appealing delivery systems,” says Pavlidou. “For example, our Fortitech Premixes service offers precisely customized blends of functional ingredients for use in a wide variety of applications. This ensures our customers can develop products that offer the exact health benefits their target consumers want.”

With an estimated 40 to 60 percent of human caloric consumption coming from vegetable oils and grains, Bunge believes it is in a good position to help consumers meet their evolving dietary needs, and its oil- and grain-based ingredients can be included in a wide variety of foods to make them more heart healthy, Hardie points out.

“Bunge oils are being used to bake healthier crackers, breads, bars and cookies and in frying applications to create healthier snacks,” Hardie says. “Margarines, spreads and salad dressings are also good systems for delivering the heart-health benefits of vegetable oil.”

“Our whole grains can be used to produce flours, meals, grits and extrusions that make snack bars, snack mixes, baked goods and tortillas more wholesome and heart-healthy,” Hardie adds.

From NattoPharma’s perspective, Traberg notes that capsules and tablets still seem to be the main delivery systems, but liquids seem to be gaining traction. For example, its partner Carlson in the US just launched at Natural Products Expo East a liquid formulation – Super Daily D3 + K2 – that targets bone and cardiovascular support.
Traberg adds that NattoPharma is also hearing a lot of interest abroad about introducing functional foods and beverages.
“What is great about partnering with NattoPharma is that, no matter what delivery system or formulation our partners seek to put on the market, our R&D Solutions division consults with our customers to understand their specific formulation needs,” says Traberg.

Be sure to check back in with NutritionInsight on Wednesday, October 18 when we will look at consumer trends and innovations in heart health products.

By Paul Creasy

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