Negative antioxidant health claims not short-term barrier
At a recently convened NutraIngredients roundtable, Ram Chaudhari, PhD, chief scientific officer for Fortitech, and Julie Rosenborg, business development manager for Lallemand Health Ingredients, discussed the current and future directions for antioxidants following negative opinions in the European Union.
They highlighted that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued positive opinions for the antioxidants vitamins, like vitamin C.
So where next? “In my opinion EFSA has not given positive opinions on many different ingredients and many different health benefits,” said Rosenborg, “so we have to look for other solutions to communicate the beneficial effects of our ingredients and products.”
“We are advising our customers to make a mix with some other ingredients – like the minerals and other traditional antioxidants that have received strong antioxidant claims – in order to bear claims on the products. They can still use the newer antioxidants ingredients that have been released onto the market,” added Rosenborg.
Dr Chaudhari agreed, noting that: “Antioxidants do protect against cell damage, and particularly mitochondrial damage. Antioxidants, without any hesitation, I would say are heading in a positive direction, as long as we explain to consumers the benefit that what is good for them.”
“I think the science is emerging constantly,” added Dr Chaudhari. “We are doing more and more scientific studies about the newer generation of antioxidants and not just vitamins A, C, and E. Pycnogenol, for example, has been studied widely, as have CoQ10, selenium and glutathione. There is excellent science behind these ingredients,” said Dr Chaudhari.
“There is unfortunately some disconnect unfortunately between regulatory agencies and the companies that develop these products. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any benefit from consuming those products,” he added.
The panellists also agreed with calls from other experts in this field that the term ‘antioxidants’ has become a marketing term, and that the effects of the compounds may indeed be beyond antioxidants activity.
“I think antioxidants were becoming an ORAC race, where the more ORAC you could measure the better,” said Rosenborg. “It was a very simple story to explain a quite complex mechanism. I hope that in time that we will be able to make a more detailed description of the effects in a way that consumers will also be able to understand,” she added.
Dr Chaudhari stressed the importance of moderation: “I think the key here is that people think that if I take twice as much as is recommended that I will get twice the benefit, which is not always true. Moderation is the key because we are talking about foods and beverages. In order to have long term benefits you have to have moderation. If you add antioxidants to every product you are not going to gain anything.
“Consumers also do lose confidence and the whole point of finding a documented quality ingredient to deliver certain health benefits is to differentiate from the other products on the market,” added Rosenborg. “If everyone has the antioxidant claim then we’re just at the same level.”