Great potential seen in bioactive ingredients

CHICAGO — Progress toward the introduction and adoption of bioactive ingredients in food products is being hampered by a regulatory process ill-suited to evaluating the benefits of these products, said Ray Matulka, PhD, director of toxicology and executive vice president of Burdock Group Consultants, Orla. Dr. Matulka spoke at a panel on the question: “How is our increased understanding of nutrient bioavailability and biotransformation leading to new innovations?” The July 12 panel took place during IFT First, July 11-13 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

“I believe a new regulatory paradigm is needed to allow structure/function claims for bioactive ingredients to be added to food labels with a lower level of evidence of efficacy than that required for nutrients,” he said. -he declares.

Moderated by Maxine Roman, Head of New Business and Disruptive R&D at Kraft Heinz Co., Chicago, other panelists were Taylor Wallace, Managing Director of Think Healthy Group, LLC, Washington; Paul Moughan, Distinguished Professor and Riddet Institute Fellow at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand; and Lingyun Chen, Professor, University of Alberta, Edmonton. The co-moderator was Matthew Teegarten, professor at Ohio State University, Columbus.

While the concept of bioavailability – the amount of a substance that enters circulation when introduced into the body – appears to be straightforward, panelists said misconceptions abound, starting with the medical community.

“Health care providers don’t always know about bioavailability,” Dr. Wallace said. “If you look at the doctors, the nurses, they say take as many vitamins as you want, you just go pee them, or don’t take anything, they’re not sure.”

He said such misconceptions “also trickle down to consumers.”

Dr Moughan said misunderstandings about bioavailability also extend to the scientific community.

“A lot of confusion between digestibility, bioavailability and utilization,” he said. “Bioavailability is about the absorption of a nutrient with a usable structural form. Many people confuse bioavailability in this sense with usability.

He said such confusion can be found in published scientific papers. The use of bioavailable amino acids for protein synthesis depends on many other factors, including aspects of the person, Dr. Moughan said.

These distinctions could prove to be of increasing importance in the years to come, as the use of plant proteins tends to be lower than that of animal proteins, the panelists said. As the sustainability of various protein choices is considered, these differences deserve attention, the panelists said.

Dr. Chen said plant proteins can be used to improve the bioavailability of key vitamin nutrients.

“We can develop plant protein-based encapsulation systems that can protect compounds and control their release for increased bioavailability,” she said.

While the excitement around the microbiome is warranted, Dr Moughan cautioned that it will be some time before knowledge of the subject allows for the development of products that help consumers optimize their gut health.

“I think in the long run it will have a huge impact,” he said. “There is more we don’t know than we know. This is an area in its infancy. It is up to the dietary fibres, the non-starch polysaccharides, to be bioactive. We now know that we can change the makeup of the microbiome very easily, very quickly by using different amounts and types of dietary fiber. What we don’t know, nobody really knows, is what microbial makeup is healthy. We can move it. We can find different microbial populations in different people, but what is the healthiest combination? It’s very controversial.

“I think as the work is done and we understand the changes in microbiome data, we will have precision nutrition using particular types of non-starch polysaccharides to move and maintain the microbial population, not only in the colon but also in the upper tract.”

Increasingly, scientists are looking beyond individual strains of bacteria when assessing what constitutes a healthier or less healthy microbiome, Dr. Wallace said. He is currently studying the microbiome health of over 1,000 infants in Central America.

“What I’m learning from experts in the microbiome field is that it’s about the community, because bacteria thrive in communities,” he said. “They function as a community. Often in research we ask if this strain has increased or decreased. The question is what is the functionality of this.

Dr. Moughan agreed that it is not necessarily helpful to focus on single strains of microbes.

“In the realm of the microbiome, more biodiversity is often seen as a good thing,” he said. “That’s not necessarily true. If you look at infants, breast-fed infants have much lower diversity than formula-fed infants. We really need to understand the microbiome as a community. There is a lot of redundancy. You can make different combinations of microbe species that will do the same thing. They have different diversities.

In the discussion of bioactive ingredients – ingredients that trigger actions in the body that can promote better health – Dr Moughan said diet should be seen as “more than the sum of the nutrients” that are consumed.

“We’ve taken a reductionist approach where we break down food into nutrients and talk about all the nutrients that are bioavailable,” he said. “Obviously that’s very important, but there are a lot of other factors with molecular structures and other constituents that have bioactives. In the future, we will have to think more about the holistic properties of food. When you do that, it explains a lot of things that we’ve known for a long time. If you look at, for example, dairy products, milk products, milk and other products, when you break them down they are full of saturated fatty acids, they are high in sodium, they must be bad for you. But we know from epidemiological studies that it turns out that they are healthy foods, that they maintain the health of consumers. I’m sure it’s because of the overall structural properties, bioactive compounds, others as well. We need to know the nutrients, but that’s not all, we also need to know the holistic properties of food.

Panelists discussed other parts of the world that don’t seem to tie standards for bioactive ingredients and nutrients as closely as they do with the Food and Drug Administration. For example, Dr Matulka said the European Union has a framework for allowing reference to bioactives on product labels which could be helpful.

Dr. Moughan said the United States “can learn a lot from Japan,” when it comes to understanding how bioactive ingredients benefit humans.

“They have years and years of experience in this area and do it very well,” he said.

While all panelists agreed that science-based standards are needed for bioactives, Dr. Matulka said the standard used for nutrients is not the right measure.

“Nutrients are essential for life,” he said. “We need to take a step back on bioactives and say, no, we don’t need to reach this high level and say this is essential. We need a slightly lower level to say it’s beneficial.

Dr Wallace said having at least one clinical trial to support claims should be a baseline standard to consider.