Nine suppliers of fatty acid ingredients tell the industry about their offerings.

Dairy Foods talked to:
Michelle Harlow, scientist, Martek Biosciences Corp.
Diane Hnat, senior technical marketing manager, DSM Nutritional Products, North America
Peter Lembke, chief scientific officer, Bioseutica
Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager North America, Lipid Nutrition
Jessica Marshall, applications scientist, Glanbia Nutritionals
Chet Rao, marketing manager, Hormel Foods Corp.
Eric Shinsato, technical sales support manager, Corn Products International
Mary Ann Siciliano, national sales manager, Arista Industries Inc.
Laura Troha, marketing manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health, a part of BASF

On the heels of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendations for Americans to reduce their daily saturated fat intake from 10% to 7% of energy, new research from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, says fat is not to blame for the increase in incidence of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. According to Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition, if Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugar snacks, we would wipe out almost all of the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases. In other words, fat is not as evil as many make it out to be.

Further, Harvard scientists recently found that a monounsaturated fatty acid found in dairy fat, one naturally occurring in the trans-configuration, may help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. The compound is trans-palmitoleic acid, and its prevalence in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter may help explain other recent research suggesting that high-dairy diets reduce the risk of diabetes.

For the study, researchers examined 3,736 participants in the government-funded Cardiovascular Health Study, which has been ongoing for more than 20 years. Risk factors for metabolic problems, including blood glucose, insulin and fatty acid levels, were measured from blood samples taken in 1992, and then participants were regularly followed up for diabetes development. The data showed that at the start of the study, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid, which can only come from the diet as the body does not produce it naturally, were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, insulin and insulin sensitivity. Over the long term, participants who were in the highest percentile of trans-palmitoleic acid levels had a 60% reduced chance of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with those in the lowest quintile, representing an almost threefold difference in risk of developing diabetes among individuals with the highest blood levels of this fatty acid.

This was only an observational study, yet, the message is clear: There’s a lot to be learned about fatty acids and their impact on health and wellness. Here’s what nine suppliers of fatty acid ingredients want to tell the industry about their offerings.

Dairy Foods: What is unique about the fatty acid ingredients that your company supplies to the dairy industry?

Harlow: Martek produces a vegetarian DHA, which has been shown to support brain, eye and heart health throughout all stages of life. It is derived from microalgae, a renewable and sustainable source of DHA, and is produced entirely in the United States in an FDA-inspected facility. Martek’s algal-based DHA oil contains a minimum of 350 milligrams of DHA per gram with a caloric and fat content otherwise similar to that of vegetable oil. We have worked successfully with many dairy producers to deliver DHA-fortified milks, yogurts, cheeses, ice cream and butter. Most dairy products can be fortified at 32 milligrams of DHA per serving or more but fortification levels vary depending on product type and target audience. To begin the fortification process for most dairy products, the DHA algal oil is homogenized into the milk. Once homogenized, the DHA-fortified milk can then be processed to make other dairy products. Fluid milk and yogurt are the two products most often fortified with DHA. All fat contents can be fortified, although they must be packaged in UV-blocking material to prevent light oxidation.

Hnat: DSM’s EPA/DHA emulsion is a fish oil-based product specifically designed for inclusion in non-frozen dairy products, as during milk processing, particularly with any aeration, oxidation of omega-3 oils can occur. It is important to not only use highly refined fish oil but also fish oil that is stabilized with an optimized antioxidant system, which is what we offer dairy processors. Our aseptically packaged, odor-free, stable emulsion can be added to dairy products during the time of packaging via special equipment or it can be added before pasteurization and homogenization.  For the fortification of 1.5% fat milk, we recommend a usage level of 0.2%, which equates to 75 milligrams of EPA/DHA per 8-ounce serving.  Vitamins A and D3 can be added without impacting stability or taste. 

Lembke: Bioseutica offers highly concentrated, pure fatty acid ingredients. Our patented technology uses only compressed carbon dioxide as a solvent in the extraction and chromatographic process, which ensures maximum protection against oxidation and trans-fat formation. It has such a high selectivity that each fatty acid can be produced up to a concentration of 99%. Therefore, we can create any possible ratio of two or more fatty acids, thus creating unique ingredients for our customers.  For example, a milk or yogurt can be enriched with a standard DHA-rich fish oil, or it can be enriched by our custom-made DHA formula, which is at least three times as concentrated as the DHA fish oil. Additionally, it can be made to possess the natural ratio of DHA to EPA that is found in mother’s milk. Less amount of oil concentrate in the final product means better dosification and less organoleptic problems and greater consumer acceptance.

Luchsinger: Lipid Nutrition manufactures and supplies CLA ingredients derived from natural safflower oil. They contain the highest concentration of the two active CLA isomers, c-9, t-11 and t-10, c-12, which have been identified as being beneficial in reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass. The latest published clinical study in the British Journal of Nutrition (March 2007) demonstrates that our CLA reduces fat mass in particular regions of the body, independent of diet and exercise. The subjects in the trial lost, on average, 4.4 pounds of body fat, primarily around the legs and abdomen, areas where men and women typically accrue fat. This study was the first to show the regional effects of fat loss due to CLA supplementation. Our CLA comes in oil, emulsion and powder form, and is easy to formulate with and will not affect the flavor profile of the end product. It is GRAS for yogurt, fluid milk, juice, nutritional bars, soy beverages and meal replacement shakes. From clinical trials, we recommend the intake of 3 grams of CLA for achieving the weight management benefits. This can be split into different doses or consumed at one time.

Marshall: Glanbia Nutritionals provides a number of flaxseed ingredients, which are a source of ALA. For example, our ground flaxseed ingredients contains about 22% ALA and can be designed to different mesh sizes in order to work in any application, from baked goods to dairy smoothies. For a product containing all three omega-3 forms (ALA, DHA and EPA), we use a patented technology to encapsulate fish oil with milled flaxseed, which helps stabilize the fish oil from oxidation.

Rao: Hormel specializes in fat-soluble ingredients for aqueous products such as functional beverages, smoothies and yogurt.  Our product line includes omega-3 fatty acids from marine and algae sources, coenzymeQ10 (CoQ10) and vitamin D, all of which function in both shelf-stable and refrigerated applications. We recently launched an ingredient for beverages designed for heart health, sports performance or energy. It contains 100 milligrams of EPA/DHA and 50 milligrams of CoQ10.

Shinsato: Corn Products’ omega-3 fatty acid is a high DHA/EPA tuna oil that is microencapsulated into a powder form to provide shelf stability and ease of handling. The ratio of EPA to DHA is very similar to that found in human breast milk. It does not require refrigerated transportation and storage, resulting in lower logistics costs. Our omega-3 fatty acid may be used in a wide variety of products manufactured in dairy plants, including drinkable and set yogurt, natural and processed cheeses, HTST and UHT milk, frozen desserts, margarine, fruit juices and drinks, and regular and flavored teas. Usage levels vary by application. 

Siciliano: The fatty acid ingredients that Arista Industries offers for the dairy industry are ALA, EPA and DHA. The ALA comes from either flaxseed or perilla oil, while the EPA and DHA are from fish oil, including, but not limited to, anchovy, salmon, sardine and tuna. The flaxseed and perilla oil-based ingredients contain a minimum of 50% ALA, while the fish oil ingredient can be designed to deliver 20-50% EPA/DHA. Because it can be refined, perilla oil is very stable, but flaxseed oil is pressed and filtered only, so refrigeration is suggested for maximum shelf life. Although EPA and DHA from fish oil is refined, the nature of these fatty acids is to be unstable unless in a closed system, like a single-dose packet or soft-gelatin capsule. ALA has been included in cheeses and yogurts, but can be incorporated into juice or milk at various percentages. EPA and DHA from fish oil can be included in milk at low percentages.

Troha: Cognis produces high-quality CLA through a proprietary process that converts linoleic acid from safflowers into CLA. It contains the lowest amount of non-naturally occurring isomers, a patent-protected attribute that provides food manufacturers with the highest levels of ingredients known to be beneficial. It is rich in c-9, t-11 and t-10, c-12 isomers and meets high-purity specifications in a 50:50 ratio of these two bioactive CLA isomers. Our CLA comes in several product forms, including oil- and water-dispersible powders, offering manufacturers a broad range of options for their products. According to a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2007), our CLA could enhance overall health by effectively reducing body fat and potentially preventing weight and fat regain commonly experienced by adults. After analyzing 18 eligible CLA studies that met their strict criteria (longitudinal randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials using validated body composition measurements), the paper’s authors concluded that among participants given 3.2 grams of CLA per day, the CLA produced a modest but significant reduction of fat mass of 0.2 pounds a week or 0.8 pounds a month compared to participants in the placebo group. This is how CLA functions: When one consumes fat that the body does not need for energy, that fat is absorbed by fat cells and stored with the help of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase. CLA blocks this enzyme and diverts unused fat to your muscle cells, where the CLA activates another enzyme that promotes the burning of fat, especially during exercise. 

Dairy Foods: What is the future for this (these) ingredients, in general, and specifically in dairy products?

Harlow: The awareness of what DHA is, and how important it is for brain, eye, heart and other areas of health throughout the lifecycle, is growing immensely worldwide. We have seen product launches of DHA-fortified dairy and other food products in the [United] States, China, Mexico and Europe increase over the past several years as awareness grows. Dairy, in particular, is becoming a popular vehicle for delivery of DHA into children’s diets. Parents enjoy that they are giving their children a healthy boost to their brain and eye development with the added benefit of coming from a vegetarian and sustainable source. We also believe that as the positive findings around algal-based DHA’s role in memory and brain health for adults continue to emerge, more adult-based dairy products containing DHA will make their way into the market.

Hnat: Nutritional fortification of dairy products, particularly those with no or little fat, is a way to add even more health benefits to a category that is enjoying much promotion these days. Despite the recent lambasting by some of low-fat chocolate milk for children, there is no simple way to provide all the nutrients of a product such as this at an economical cost. Additionally, vitamins A and D, probiotics, prebiotics and omega-3s are just a few of the nutritional ingredients enhancing dairy products over the past few years. Dairy products have an aura of being fresh and natural, which resonates well with consumers, too.

Lembke: Dairy products are an ideal carrier for essential fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA. Daily consumption of dairy products can ensure that the population, especially kids and the elderly, get enough fatty acids for healthy development and well-being. There are a number of omega-3-enriched milk products in the market, but many of these products either have small quantities of EPA and/or DHA, or not in an optimal ratio. Our 70%DHA/7%EPA is an ideal ingredient to enrich dairy products, as it is in an optimal ratio, especially for young children.

Luchsinger: Consumers are looking for products that complement their hectic lifestyles. If a food manufacturer can provide a dairy product or beverage, such as yogurt or a single-serve milk bottle, for on-the-go consumption, it most likely has a higher probability of success…assuming it is positioned right and benefits are communicated to the consumer. However, consumers not only need to understand the healthy benefit, but consumers also have to accept it in the food.  For example, because CLA is found naturally in dairy, it makes sense to consumers that CLA be found in that type of product. We believe that the next year or two will be exciting for the dairy market with respect to CLA. This is because more companies have to be innovative in today’s market to be successful. There are plenty of good-quality, well-researched ingredients, such as CLA, which are available to dairy foods formulators to develop products that help consumers lead more healthy lives.

Marshall: In general, omega-3 awareness is increasing, which increases demand for products containing omega-3s. I think there is an untapped synergism between omega-3s and dairy products that has not been fully explored. We expect to continue to see combination products like this in the future.

Rao: I think we are just scratching the surface of using milk as a carrier for functional ingredients. The dairy category has been commoditized and branded companies will pursue differentiation strategies. Dairy products have a healthy halo, which makes them perfect vehicles for targeting nutritional deficiencies such as omega-3s and CoQ10.

Shinsato: The future of omega-3s is “now.”  Consumer awareness is high and much of the information being presented to the public is science based and backed by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED). Omega-3s can serve all age groups, from infants to seniors, in the development and maintenance of heart, brain and eye health.

Siciliano: The positive publicity that omega-3s have received, as well as ongoing research, will continue to increase the inclusion of these ingredients in new formulations. With the growing category of functional foods, inclusion of essential fatty acids will continue to encourage the development of innovative dairy products.

Troha: There is so much to be learned about dietary fatty acids and their possible health benefits. Industry must educate consumers that fat - saturated and unsaturated - is essential for life. There is a huge future of fortifying dairy products with beneficial fatty acids.

Key to Fatty Acid Acronyms
ALA: Alpha-linolenic acid
CLA: Conjugated linoleic acid
DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid
EPA: Eicosapentaenoic acid

Sidebar: Claims Fatty Acids Can Make

There are a number of claims marketers can make on product labels and in advertising when a food contains functional fatty acids. Here’s a quick overview.

The Food and Drug Administration has only authorized a health claim for DHA and EPA. It reads: “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [name of food] provides [x]grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.” The FDA did not establish a minimum dosage but did indicate that not more than 3 grams should be consumed per day. 

Structure-function claims describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient intended to affect normal structure or function in humans. The FDA does not evaluate these claims and manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their accuracy and truthfulness.  Examples of structure-function claims for DHA and EPA include: maintains a healthy cardiovascular system and supports the normal development of the brain, eyes and nerves.

Structure-function claims are the only option for products enriched with CLA. Possible verbiage includes: increases muscle tone, accelerates fat loss, reduces body fat and prevents weight gain.

Nutrient content claims characterize the level of a nutrient in the food and can only be made for nutrients with an established Daily Value. This prevents CLA- enriched products from making nutrient content claims, as there is no Daily Value for CLA.

Nutrient content claims are an option for products containing DHA and EPA. “Excellent source,” “high in” or “rich in” claims may be made for products that contain a combined total of at least 32 milligrams of DHA and EPA per serving.  The permitted claim must be accompanied by a statement that relates the amount of DHA and EPA in the product to a Daily Value for these substances.  Examples of how to appropriately word this nutrient content claim would be “Excellent source of omega-3 DHA and EPA” and “Contains [xx] milligrams of DHA and EPA combined per serving, which is [xx]% of the 160 milligrams Daily Value for a combination of DHA and EPA.”

There are no authorized health claims for plant-derived ALA, which is converted in the human body to DHA and EPA. Structure-function claims must be worded carefully, and should likely include a reference to the conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA. ALA does have a Daily Value (1.3 grams), making the aforementioned nutrient content claims possible if a serving contains 260 milligrams of ALA.