More than one person would tell you that calcium is needed to build strong bones. Now, many consumers understand that more than calcium is needed for proper bone and joint health, and these consumers actively are seeking out products to aid them in this nutrition.

 “Beverages are a convenient delivery system for consumers targeting bone and joint health,” says Trina O’Brien, marketing manager for GTC Nutrition, Golden, Colo. “Most consumers are looking to support this area of wellness in order to sustain active lifestyles and keep moving.”

“It is a significant advantage if consumers can consume products with functional ingredients without having to make changes in their daily activities or remember taking supplements,” says Paul Dijkstra, chief executive officer of InterHealth Nutraceuticals Inc., Benicia, Calif. “Plus the positive experience of consuming a great-tasting product encourages repeat purchases.” 

An estimated 10 million Americans older than age 50 have osteoporosis, the most common bone disease, while another 34 million are at risk, according to “Bone Health and Osteoporosis,” an October 2004 report from the U.S. Surgeon General. Each year an estimated 1.5 million people suffer an osteoporotic-related fracture, an event that often leads to a downward spiral in physical and mental health, the report says.

Just more than one in five adults in the United States have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This makes arthritis the most common cause of disability in the country, it says. Nearly 19 million adults say that arthritis limits their usual activities in some way, the CDC reports. In addition, the risk of arthritis increases with age and is more common among women than men, it says.

Aiding joint health
Beverages that offer joint health benefits continue to be an important category for consumers who are looking for new ingredients that are more effective than existing products. 

“Joint-care ingredients that are backed by research should be extremely successful as consumers are increasingly concerned about efficacy and safety of the ingredients in their beverages and foods,” Dijkstra says.

InterHealth Nutraceuticals offers UC-II, a natural collagen concentrate that contains undenatured (native) type II collagen for joint health. Undenatured type II collagen triggers the deactivation of the inflammatory process in the joints and helps the body rebuild joint cartilage, the company says. The ingredient has been determined generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in beverages and foods by the Burdock Group, a food safety and regulatory compliance consulting firm in Orlando, Fla. 

In clinical research, 40 mg. of UC-II a day showed to decreased joint pain, discomfort and immobility compared to the baseline, InterHealth Nutraceuticals says. The powdered, shelf-stable ingredient is single sourced and manufactured in the United States. 

UC-II is application friendly, which allows it to be used in a variety of beverage formulations, Dijkstra says. Because 40 mg. of UC-II is effective, the ingredient contributes virtually no impact on sensory and organoleptic markers of a food or beverage product, he says. UC-II has shown to be stable during pasteurization and aseptic processing conditions, and will work in any beverage, including juice-based and dairy-based beverages. Sachets and shots also work well for UC-II, he says. 

According to proprietary research from Cargill, Minneapolis, 45 percent of adults suffering from joint problems are likely to use glucosamine-fortified foods or beverages, including sports drinks, functional waters and ready-to-drink teas. Glucosamine is a natural compound, made from glucose and the amino acid glutamine, found in the body. Traditionally glucosamine is found in the supplement aisle in capsules and tablets. Cargill is growing glucosamine in the beverage and food aisle through its ingredient Regenasure glucosamine.

Cargill Regenasure is a commercially available GRAS glucosamine. Regenasure allows beverage and food manufacturers an opportunity to differentiate in the growing joint health market by formulating new products under a food label vs. a supplement label, the company says. Produced in the United States from a vegetarian source, Regenasure is a non-animal, non-shellfish solution for customers seeking a vegetarian, allergen-free, kosher, halal glucosamine, the company says. Regenasure glucosamine can be added to many beverages as a “drop in” ingredient, says Shari Ruble, technical services specialist at Cargill Corn Milling North America.

“Glucosamine is compatible in acidic environments,” she says. “In fact, that is where stability of the ingredient is best.” 

In fruit and vegetable juices, functional water, sports drinks, flavored teas, smoothies and yogurts, Regenasure can be added along with other dry ingredients, and it is water soluble. In these environments, it is suited to be stable through heat process steps and offers shelf stability, Ruble says.

Gelita, with headquarters in Germany, also offers an ingredient for people suffering from chronic joint discomfort. Gelita’s Fortigel stimulates cartilage metabolism and enhances the synthesis of cartilage cells, the company says. Fortigel can be formulated in a range of beverages.

In addition, early next year PL Thomas, Morristown, N.J., will release an ingredient, derived from celery seeds, that blocks pain receptors from receiving information. The natural extract is a resin that can be turned into a water-soluble product. In addition, the ingredient builds up in one’s system and the benefits remain even if a day is skipped, the company says. 

Joint and bone health aids
Bone health fortifications are becoming prevalent in more beverage categories than the usual milk-based products. Enhanced bottled waters and juices are two categories where calcium fortifications are growing. 

One calcium fortification for beverages from GTC Nutrition is Aquamin calcified mineral source, a product derived from sea algae that has organoleptic properties, GTC Nutrition’s O’Brien says. Harvested from the North Atlantic Ocean, Aquamin is a mineral matrix of vegetative origin that is high in calcium and magnesium for improving both bone and joint health, the company says.

Aquamin is available in a variety of forms to meet all beverage application needs. Aquamin F is a source of minerals that can be added to beverages with a neutral pH, such as soy or milk-based beverages. The ingredient contains a minimum of 31 grams of calcium and 2.8 grams of magnesium per 100 grams of product. The use rate depends on the level of minerals desired in the finished application, O’Brien says. The typical use level in soy beverages is 0.14 percent to 0.31 percent and 0.14 percent to 0.60 percent in milk-based beverages. Aquamin F can be used in combination with carrageenan and other stabilizers for improved suspension. Aquamin F’s normal pH is 9.8 to 10.1. 

GTC Nutrition also offers Aquamin S for use in low pH beverage applications like smoothies. Aquamin S has been enhanced with organic acids to improve the solubility of the product in low pH conditions, less than 5.5. Aquamin S contains a minimum of 17.5 grams of calcium and 1 gram of magnesium per 100 grams of product. The typical use level is 0.1 percent to 0.7 percent, and the solubility will be affected by the level of solids in the finished product, O’Brien says. The typical pH of Aquamin S is 6.0 to 6.6.

Aquamin Soluble is specifically designed for clear low pH beverage applications, including sports drinks, enhanced waters and soft drinks. This version contains a minimum of 12 percent calcium and 1 percent magnesium. Optimum pH for beverages containing Aquamin Soluble is 3.0 to 6.5, and the typical pH of Aquamin Soluble is a minimum of 4.0.

Innophos, Cranbury, N.J., also offers a bone health fortification that can be used in all beverage applications. VersaCal Clear is a highly soluble calcium phosphate that can be used in all beverage types but is specially formulated for clear beverages. As a calcium phosphate, VersaCal Clear is an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, which are necessary for good bone health, the company says. VersaCal is a bland, odorless powder that offers a clean aftertaste with no gritty or chalky mouthfeel.

VersaCal is available in other formats as well. For neutral-based beverages, such as soy and rice, VersaCal MP provides a calcium content as bioavailable as milk, without any gritty mouthfeel, Innophos says. VersaCal MP is micronized tricalcium phosphate and soy fibers that allow health claims for bone health and cholesterol reduction, the company says. The format offers a controlled particle size of less than 10 microns to provide fortification without grittiness. 

Innophos also developed VersaCal DA, a dicalcium phosphate that has been created to provide low pH beverages with an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, the company says. VersaCal DA has a low buffering capacity and good solubility at acidic pH. Along with having a similar calcium bioavailability as milk, VersaCal DA is bland, odorless, colorless and is easily suspended.

Vitamins also contribute to proper bone health. PL Thomas offers natural vitamin K2. The body through matrix gla protein (MGP), the carrier for calcium, directs where calcium goes. K2 takes the calcium and puts it where it belongs, says Rodger Jonas, PL Thomas’s director of national sales. For example, K2 has shown to redirect calcium from arteries, which provides a heart health benefit, and also helps develop a stronger, more flexible bone, he says. The two major sources of K2 are highly fermented cheese and fermented soy. PL Thomas sources its K2 from soy.    

Going forward, new beverage technologies, including sachets, cap-release technology and encapsulation, will make more beverage categories suitable for joint health, bone health and other fortifications. In addition, more joint and bone health fortifications continue to develop. 

“Prebiotics are increasingly being used in beverage applications to provide unique bone, digestive and immune health benefits,” GTC Nutrition’s O’Brien says. 

GTC Nutrition’s NutraFlora prebiotic fiber supports bone health by increasing calcium absorption. Because it’s a fiber, NutraFlora also contributes to daily fiber intake and supports digestive health, O’Brien says. 

Innovation through fortification continues to be a strong driver in the beverage industry. 

“It seems the future market is ready for innovation with new ingredients — products that are clinically proven to work that are safe, application-friendly and easy to work with in various product formulations,” InterHealth Nutraceuticals’ Dijkstra says. “Manufacturers are waiting for new ingredients that allow them to differentiate their products in the marketplace and re-invigorate the entire category.”