More people are looking to food as a means to improve medical issues. Heart health is an area that is growing, especially as more people develop high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and type II diabetes. Changes in diet often involve seeking ingredients that may improve conditions. Plant sterols are becoming more popular, have significant research to back their benefits, and are increasingly being used in functional foods and supplements.
Plant sterols occur naturally in small quantities in wheat bran, peanut butter, avocadoes, sesame seeds, canola and corn oil, as well as other plants, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils (EU: plant sterols). Sterols are structurally related to cholesterol. However, they differ from cholesterol by their side-chain structure. Growing research shows that sterols aid in reduction of low-density cholesterol levels and reduce cholesterol absorption. It has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in animal studies. Phytosterols is a collective term for plant sterols and their hydrogenated stanol forms (EU: phytosterols).
While the numbers vary slightly when reviewing regulations from country to country, clinical studies of plant sterols have shown that consumption of approx. 1 to 3 grams of sterol daily can have a 5 to 15 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol, when combined with a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber.
The FDA in the US in 2000 issued an interim final rule regarding the claim that links consuming plant sterol and stanol esters and reduction of risk of coronary heart disease. Changes have occurred since the initial interim rule, and requirements for the claim have been adjusted to reflect subsequent research (see 21 CFR 101.83). In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority approved the use of plant sterols in certain foods.
The EFSA recently rejected a proposal in February, 2014 to add sterol supplements in powder form to water. This was due to having only one study to back the claim, and no other replication of research. 3 additional studies were submitted, but they “did not comply with the specifications provided by the applicant for the extension of conditions of use”. In 2010, Health Canada’s Food Directorate approved plant sterols for use in a select number of products.
Concerns to review if claims about phytosterols are needed for your product:
- Assure you meet the dosage level as required by your country with the appropriate number of servings.
- A maximum fat amount may be allowed per serving to make a claim.
- There may be specific product categories where plant sterols are allowed.
Assure that labeling provisions are met with your product in your selling area when claims are considered.
Uses in food are not limited to the industry-accepted reduced fat margarines and spreads. Their use can cross into dairy-based products like yogurt drinks and milk with great ease. Sterols can lend creamy texture to the products they are incorporated into due to their emulsification properties. Plant sterols have a clean taste impact, help mask bitter flavors, and contribute to creaminess in dairy products. Phytosterols are microbiologically inert, and do not impact fermentation during yogurt production. They also can be found in breakfast cereals, added to granola bars, or incorporated into juice-based products.
Products launched in the last year, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database include cooking oil in Malaysia and India; yogurt-based drinks in Spain, France, Italy and UK; milks from Indonesia, Malaysia and China; and margarines and spreads from South Africa, Poland, Spain and Netherlands.
Plant Sterol Products in Innovadex
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