Bone Health Ingredients

By Joanna Cosgrove
Online Editor

With a cadre of consumers heeding the call for increased calcium consumption, awareness of bone health has never been higher. Bone continually dissolves and reforms itself through the course of a lifetime by way of two types of bone cells: osteoblasts (bone builders) and osteoclasts (bone dissolvers). Osteoblasts work with calcium and vitamin D to reform bone. But calcium isn’t a singular quick fix for long-term bone health. Calcium is rendered from a variety of sources and each type of calcium offers its own unique bone benefits.

ESC from ESM Technologies of Carthage, MO, is derived from domestically sourced chicken eggshells. “A key factor related only to eggshell calcium is the inherent transport proteins thus increasing absorption. A study showed that these proteins are responsible for absorption,” explained Chris Haynes, national sales manager. “Additionally, eggshell calcium comes with a significant number of trace minerals that are critical for overall bone building. Since eggshell calcium has proteins, it is often considered a ‘food form’ of calcium. Another factor is ESC has virtually no heavy metal content versus other forms of calcium.”

In addition, Mr. Haynes cited clinical studies which confirmed eggshell calcium’s ability to increase bone mineral density “in as quick as eight months,” as well as its ability to “reverse osteoporosis and osteopenia.”

ESC’s consumer appeal is enhanced by its being a ‘food source’ of calcium due to its transport proteins.

Centerville, UT-based Biotron Laboratories Inc.’s brand of calcium is actually a reacted calcium amino acid chelate ingredient that begins with purified USP grade inorganic elemental calcium salts as well as protein hydrolysate that is treated according to the company’s proprietary enzymatic methods.

“As with most things in life, there are tradeoffs and choosing a calcium product is no exception,” explained Gameil Fouad, PhD, president of Biotron Laboratories. “There are highly concentrated sources of calcium which are inexpensive and commonplace—meaning one may take fewer tablets or capsules to achieve daily recommendations. However, such products also tend to be poorly absorbed. Thus, simply consuming 100% of the recommended intake by label claim does not guarantee adequate bioavailable calcium for the body’s needs.

“Conversely,” he continued, “an organically bound calcium ingredient is more bioavailable, though tends to be less concentrated by its very nature as organic molecules like amino acids or short chain peptides tend to be of higher molecular weight. While this translates into more tablets or capsules to achieve the daily requirement, the consumer has the added benefit of knowing he or she is purchasing a product that is both more well absorbed and tolerated.”

Moreover, in Biotron’s case, the material contains a wide spectrum of amino acids—including all the essential amino acids—making it “a more nutritionally complete ingredient,” according to Dr. Fouad. “We take naturally occurring calcium chelates from foodstuffs—such as the alpha-lactalbumin fraction of milk—as our model,” he said.

Dr. Fouad said he’s excited by the new and interesting calcium ingredients appearing in the market. During his graduate studies, he said he spent time in a lab that focused on connective tissue proteins, such as elastin, fibrillin and several collagen isoforms. “One characteristic feature of these kinds of proteins is repetitive ‘calcium binding domain’ motifs. These are naturally occurring calcium chelating regions of proteins and such proteins are distributed widely in nature—usually found in the extracellular matrix in mammals. Often, these molecules play a structural role,” he said. “A new calcium-collagen chelate has been shown to improve bone strength in animal models of osteoporosis—and to do so more effectively than animals given inorganic calcium (as carbonate) and dietary collagen alone. This is an important finding and strengthens the theoretical foundation of mineral chelation.”

He went on to add that he suspected that outcome resulted from two important features of the calcium-collagen chelate. “The first is the fact that calcium chelates generally are more well absorbed than the inorganic salts. Secondly, collagen is the major protein component of bone. In this case, the nutritional value of the parts is not equivalent to the sum of the whole and the observed improvements in bone strength and density support this claim,” he said. “While these findings were not our work, they serve as an important validation of the concept. Moreover, it seems likely that additional studies will show similar outcomes. As always, more work needs to be done.”

Beyond Calcium

For calcium to be properly absorbed vitamin D is required.

“The bone health segment benefits from many positive scientific reports (almost published on a daily basis) about vitamin D’s strong health benefits; the clearly proven role of vitamin D (and calcium, vitamin K1) in bone health; the increasingly insufficient vitamin D status in many population groups and all age-groups (insufficient exposure to sunlight due to, e.g., sedentary lifestyles, working indoors, recommendations to avoid sun to prevent skin cancer); and an increasingly aging population making bone health (i.e., prevention of osteoporosis) a major public health issue,” commented Ute Obermueller-Jevic, head of communication, BASF Nutrition Ingredients. “In addition, FDA’s newly amended health claim on calcium and osteoporosis which now also includes vitamin D strongly supports the marketing of bone health products and we expect to see even more products and more categories positioned in the bone health segment.”

BASF offers vitamin D3 as an oil as well as in various powder forms for use in dietary supplements and food fortification. Customers can choose vitamin D3 powders depending on their specific requirements. For example, BASF has developed a vegetarian vitamin D3 powder (Dry Vitamin D3 100 GFP) that is allergen-free, gluten-free, kosher and halal.

To Parsippany, NJ -based DSM Nutritional Products Inc., calcium and vitamin D are only part of the bone health equation. With age, the loss of hormones such as estrogen in women (and men) takes its toll on bone density. DSM took this to heart when it developed genVida (formerly known as Bonistein), a synthetic genistein ingredient. “Estrogen controls the balance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts by restricting the activity of the bone-resorbing osteoclasts,” said Bob Berman, senior marketing manager. “Genistein can exert an estrogen-like regulation on bone metabolism by selectively binding to the same nuclear receptors to which estrogen binds.”

The concept of combining genistein with calcium and vitamin D to create a super powered bone supplement is an idea that’s already found favor with Bayer HealthCare, which recently launched Citrical Plus Bone Density Builder, a formula that contains 600 mg of elemental calcium, 400 IUs of vitamin D and 27 mg of genistein, plus other nutrients for bone health.

Bone health continues to be an important healthcare concern for a growing segment of the U.S. consumers. As the aforementioned suppliers have attested, there are many ways to strengthen bone tissue and with the debut of products like Citrical it would appear that consumer product marketers are applying emerging science with encouraging and enthusiastic results.

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