With the launch of Tropicana Pure Premium Healthy Heart with Omega-3 and Minute Maid Heart Wise in 2007, juices helped bring mainstream beverages targeting heart health to the breakfast table. Now consumers are looking to the convenience of beverages to bring them heart healthy benefits throughout the day, and beverage companies are answering with products across categories featuring a variety of fortifications.
Cargill Health and Nutrition research found that consumers are attracted to beverages that they perceive as being naturally healthy, such as juices and dairy-based drinks, which makes those beverages ideal for heart healthy fortifications, says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager for the company. While there is no trend toward any particular category for hearty healthy fortifications, Cargill did find in its research that many consumers like the idea of fortified breakfast products so they can make a healthy start to the day, she says.
“People really want to get healthy benefits in products that they perceive as already being healthy and something that is easy for them to add into their life,” Stauffer says. “I would like to make homemade smoothies every morning at breakfast, but in reality, I’m probably not going to do that if I can get a bottled beverage with that same sort of benefit that is much more likely and easy for me to incorporate and make it into a good habit.”
Last year, Cargill’s Barlív barley betafiber received approval for the Food and Drug Administration health claim: “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3 grams of beta-glucan soluble fiber per day from barley betafiber may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Barlív barley betafiber is a natural soluble fiber developed by Cargill that is made from barley. Cargill says clinical studies with Barlív barley betafiber have shown that consuming 3 grams per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 9.5 percent without reducing HDL cholesterol. High HDL levels are associated with less coronary disease and elevated LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease.
This spring, Barlív barley betafiber launched in Bolthouse Farms’ new Heart Healthy Pear Merlot fruit juice. One serving of the all-natural juice contains 0.75 grams of Barlív. A serving of Heart Healthy Pear Merlot also contains 200 mg. of omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce arrhythmia, triglyceride levels and blood pressure; potassium, which helps maintain normal heart function; vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin linked to the reduction of a biomarker predictive of heart disease; and vitamin D, of which deficiency is associated with increased levels of cardiovascular risk, Bolthouse Farms says.
An additional fiber ingredient, OatVantage oat bran concentrate from GTC Nutrition is a natural, highly concentrated oat soluble fiber containing a minimum of 54 percent beta-glucan. This is 18 times more beta-glucan than rolled oats, the company says. The high oat beta-glucan content of OatVantage makes it beneficial for addressing cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL and total cholesterol, while maintaining HDL cholesterol, it says. OatVantage is made using a milling technology that maintains the integrity of the beta-glucan, enabling soluble oat fiber to be formulated into beverages and foods.
Another leading heart healthy ingredient is plant sterols. Cargill offers CoroWise plant sterols, which appear in beverages such as Minute Maid Heart Wise and Rice Dream Heartwise. Plant sterols are a plant extract that can be incorporated into beverages without affecting flavor or texture, but do give a cloudy appearance. Clinical studies suggest that plant sterols can reduce cholesterol 8 to 15 percent, Cargill says. Products containing CoroWise plant sterols can display the FDA health claim: “Foods or beverages containing at least 0.4 gram plant sterols, when consumed twice a day with meals for a total intake of 0.8 gram/day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
ADM supplies the CardioAid line of plant sterols, which also are included in an FDA-approved claim that phytosterols help lower cholesterol. Plant sterols are best formulated into protein-containing beverages, whether dairy or soy based, says J.J. Mathieu, ADM technical services manager. The protein improves stability and mouthfeel, he says. ADM also has developed a water-dispersible product, CardioAid-SWD. This product is offered already combined with sodium caseinate and it disperses in water just like a typical coffee creamer, Mathieu says.
Plant sterols and fiber have a promising future in heart healthy beverages, the companies say. But much depends on consumer understanding.
“While fiber has a healthy halo with consumers, plant sterols are not as well known. “Plant sterols sound a little scary to consumers,” Stauffer says. “That’s why we ended up developing the CoroWise brand and really positioning it as a naturally sourced cholesterol reducer.”
Proper labeling also is very important, says Ram Chaudhari, Fortitech’s senior executive vice president, chief scientific officer. In addition, he believes that marketing is more important than ever before with the increase in heart healthy products.
Hearty vitamins and minerals
Beverage developers aren’t relying on one single ingredient to create a heart healthy beverage, Chaudhari says. “Depending on whether it’s a clear beverage, juice-based beverage or another type of beverage, you could have a combination of some of these nutrients to give the necessary benefit,” he explains.
For heart healthy beverages, beverage formulators often use blends because they want multiple ingredients to address the same problem, says Rodger Jonas, director of national sales at P.L. Thomas, Morristown, N.J. In addition, many of the vitamins and minerals used in beverages targeting heart health can be used to address more than one health concern, he says.
B vitamins, particularly B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid), are appearing in many heart healthy beverages because these vitamins help the body alleviate homocysteine, an amino acid, from the blood. Studies have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Vitamin K2, which appears in products targeting beauty and bone health, also has shown to reduce calcium in arteries, which is thought to reduce artery hardening.
Antioxidant vitamins C and E appear in heart healthy beverages to help remove free radicals from the body, which are believed to increase the chances of heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Another antioxidant, coenzyme Q10, is important in removing free radicals from the body, is involved in a key biochemical reaction that produces energy in cells, and may aid in the health of the cardiovascular system. P.L. Thomas now offers a reduced, water-soluble form of CoQ10 along with a dry powder form. The company also offers the antioxidant lycopene.
For minerals, calcium and magnesium are two that aid in overall nerve tissue protection and aid in the circulation of blood, Chaudhari says.
One mineral that often is reduced in heart healthy beverages is salt. Wixon Inc., St. Francis, Wis., offers KCLean Salt, a product that contains 50 percent less sodium than regular salt. KCLean Salt was developed by Wixon in response to a demand from consumers and food processors for a reduced-sodium product without sacrificing taste. KCLean Salt can replace regular salt in any application, the company says.
“Through a breakthrough in technology, Wixon combined sodium chloride with potassium chloride, but added unique proprietary ingredients, removing the bitter metallic aftertaste while delivering the salty taste consumers enjoy,” said Mariano Gascon, Wixon’s vice president of research and development.
Omega-3 and ribose
While plant sterols, vitamins and minerals frequently appear as leading ingredients for heart wellness, omega-3 fatty acids also continue to grow in popularity with increased inclusion in beverages. Cognis offers Omevital omega-3 fish oils that qualify for the FDA health claim: “reduction in the risk of heart disease.” Omevital omega-3 fish oils are available in oil, powders and finished capsules. Cognis also offers natural plant sterols and sterol esters under its consumer branded Heart Choice line.
GTC Nutrition, Golden, Colo., also supplies omega-3 under the brand Nu-Mega Omega-3 DHA. The essential fatty acid is derived from tuna oil, which is naturally rich in DHA, the company says. A microencapsulation technology converts the oil into a stable dry powder form for use in a range of beverages. The microencapsulation protects the oil against oxidation and provides a taste barrier, allowing manufacturers to increase the levels of Nu-Mega Omega-3 DHA, GTC Nutrition says.
D-ribose is another heart healthy ingredient appearing in beverages such as functional waters, sports drinks and energy drinks. D-ribose is a sugar that has been shown to boost levels of the energy compound adenosine 5’-triphosphate (ATP). Ribose is a part of every living cell, says Raj Khankari, chief executive officer of Bioenergy Life Science, Minneapolis. His company offers a patented portfolio of supplement ribose for the beverage and food industry in addition to branded D-ribose for the medical and supplemental industries. For heart health, D-ribose is thought to improve ventilatory efficiency of the heart.
Bioenergy Life Science’s D-ribose works in several types of beverages because it is soluble and stable. “It’s chemically a sugar, so it does have some sweetness to it naturally,” Khankari says. From a beverage industry point of view, that is a plus, he says, because few calories are added to a product when using ribose.
Heart healthy beverages are anticipated to continue to grow as creative introductions launch in more categories. Consumers, though, are interested in claims that are believable and backed by science, Chaudhari cautions. “There will be an increased trend toward awareness as you see bigger players coming on board and really advertising and promoting the benefits,” he says. BI