Cardio health claims: If you can say it, you can sell it

Despite the claims issues, the use of the heart-health platform is as strong as ever.

When it comes to the heart-health segment, one of the great challenges is how to communicate a product's benefits to the consumer.

"We feel consumers are beginning to look for specific benefits in functional-food health categories they are familiar with, like cardiovascular health," said Jeremy Moore, director of marketing and strategic development at Stratum Nutrition of Missouri.

The company's research indicates that the broad-based claim 'supports heart health' is still powerful, but specific claims such as 'supports healthy cholesterol levels,' 'supports healthy blood pressure,' and 'supports healthy arteries' have "very strong consumer appeal and offer more differentiation in a market saturated with general cardiovascular health claims," Moore said.

"But both the FTC and FDA are making it very difficult to clearly communicate the benefits to consumers," he said, "even when there is good science supporting the market positioning."

Despite the claims issues, the use of the heart-health platform is as strong as ever. Innova Market Insights recently reported that 'heart-health' product launches nearly tripled over the past five years and accounted for nearly 1.5 percent of total food and drinks launches recorded over the 12-month period to the end of April 2010. This is up from less than 0.7 percent in 2005.

The US and Europe account for two-thirds of these launches. In terms of product types, bakery and cereals captured north of 25 percent, dairy products had 12 percent, ready meals and meal components had 10 percent, and soft drinks accounted for nine percent. Other sectors featuring significant numbers of heart-health launches included hot beverages; meat, fish and eggs; fruit and vegetable products; and soups, sauces and seasonings.

Fibers for heart health

On the supply end, Stratum Nutrition unveiled a new cardio-health ingredient in March that combines the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fibers.

Called ARTINIA, the ingredient is a natural vegetarian fiber (Chitin-glucan) extracted from the fungus Aspergillus niger. It is a fine, free-flowing odorless powder composed of two types of polysaccharide chains. The launch came with the support of two published studies.

A 2009 animal study involving nutritionally induced atherosclerosis in hampsters, conducted at the University of Montpellier, found that supplementation with Chitin-glucan water for 12 weeks "significantly" increased antioxidant activity \[superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx)\], and consequently decreased the levels of reactive oxygen species compared to the control group.

Light microscopy image analysis of aortic arch sections taken from the hamsters revealed that the aortic fatty streak area was 96 percent smaller in the group of animals that consumed Chitin-glucan compared to the control. The ingredient was also evaluated in a 28-day pilot study in healthy humans conducted in 2009 at the University of Liège, Belgium. This single-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 30 normo-cholesterolemic males. It found Chitin-glucan decreased oxidized LDL cholesterol by approximately 26 percent and increased GSH/GSSG by about 10 percent.

"ARTINIA is unique in its mode of action for improving overall heart health, and we feel that there is a strong need in the marketplace for this type of scientifically validated ingredient," Moore said. "ARTINIA is an excellent option for manufacturers looking to take a new approach to support clean, healthy arteries and overall cardiovascular health."


Fish oils have come to be known as the Swiss Army Knife of ingredients for its broad swath of health conditions it can address. But the only health condition that the FDA has so far deemed appropriate of its imprimatur is cardiovascular health. So while marketing — and indeed, also the science — has marched onward, the regulators are content to be conservative.

One of the latest entrants to the category is krill. It's made the news lately because of sustainability concerns voiced by Whole Foods Market, along the lines of "What Would Willie Eat?" Suppliers beg to differ. Regardless, there is much to say about the tiny crustacean's nutrient content consisting of phospholipids, astaxanthin, vitamin E and other proteins.

In March of this year, Valensa International introduced Deep Ocean Krill, a premium krill oil ingredient that boosts natural astaxanthin levels and offers a shelf life of two years.

Editor's Picks:

Omega-3 fish oils: Has an FDA (qualified) health claim for exactly this condition — and consumers are hip to the term "Omega-3s." Let's go fishin'!
Niacin: The old standby does a better job than almost anything of both lowering LDL cholesterol as well as hiking HDL. The "flush" can also be used to provide a palpable effect for energy drinks.
Fiber: Keeps you regular, fits in foods, and now in beverages.

The new ingredient employs Aker BioMarine's Superba Krill Oil as a base and is fortified with Valensa's ultra-stable Zanthin Natural Astaxanthin to increase astaxanthin levels. Together, the oil features the added anti-inflammatory activity of astaxanthin and the unique phospholipid bound anti-inflammatory EPA found in krill oil.

The ingredient is targeted toward marketers of dietary supplements worldwide who want to offer consumers high-quality omega-3 functionality in a much smaller supplement size.

Deep Ocean Krill is rich in EPA and DHA, which have been shown to support cardio health in a variety of published clinical trials. The EPA and DHA in krill are also bound to phospholipids, rather than the triglycerides found in fish oils — which has important implications for bioavailability, the company says.

"The omega-3 phospholipids found in Deep Ocean Krill have a much simpler digestion process in the small intestine before absorption, indicating that omega-3 phospholipids offer greater bioavailability in the human body than omega-3 triglycerides," said Dr Rudi E. Moerck, president and CEO of Valensa. "Scientific studies have shown elevated concentrations of omega-3s in target organs, such as the brain and heart, when delivered as omega-3 phospholipids. This makes krill oil significantly more bioavailable (than fish oil), offering cardiovascular health benefits at lower dosages."

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