Spicing up cholesterol-lowering foods

Related tags Ldl cholesterol Nutrition

A food ingredient that can replace salt, add flavour and
lower cholesterol sounds too good to be true. But a Finnish
scientist says the spice Flavomare can do all of these things.

The ingredient, present on the European market before novel foods regulation entered into force, could rival other cholesterol-lowering products, many of which face rigorous safety assessment before becoming available in foods.

The patented product is a combination of flavonoids, quercetins extracted from apples and onions, and the powerful EGCG catechin from green tea, offering a potent antioxidant profile. It has been shown in a small human trial to lower LDL cholesterol, not by inhibiting cholesterol from entering the blood stream like plant sterols, but by preventing the oxidation of the damaging cholesterol.

"We think the ingredient would be very good combined with plant sterols as it actually stops LDL cholesterol from forming in the first place,"​ Lasse Kurppa, developer of Flavomare, told NutraIngredients.com.

Flavomare has been available in supplements on the Finnish market since the beginning of the year and is set for launch in supplement form in Norway and Denmark in early 2004. It has also been included in cranberry chews made by Finland's Marli.

"The most important point about this product is the synergistic effect of the antioxidants,"​ added Kurppa. "It has about 50 times the antioxidant potential of vitamin E, which is not affected by high temperatures or freezing."

Flavomare is being targeted at functional food makers, such as those making cholesterol-lowering spreads. "It has been shown that if you eat the amount of a plant sterol-based spread required to reduce cholesterol, you will also see significant weight gain. But adding Flavomare would help reduce this effect,"​ said Kurppa.

The producer of Flavomare, Selako​, is currently in discussion with a number of leading food and beverage makers for exclusive rights to the ingredient.

A recent report from Datamonitor shows that products targeting heart health are one of the leading segments of the European functional foods market. In the UK, where they were worth £100.7 million in 2002, they are set to grow 7.6 per cent annually to 2007, just behind gut health products in value.

Another Finnish firm,Teriaka, announced this week that it is set to gain novel foods approval from the European Commission for its plant sterol-based ingredient Diminicol. This will increase competition in a concentrated market.

"Any company trying to compete with the Benecol and ProActiv brand cholesterol-lowering margarines will have its work cut out. They are not giving away any market share,"​ warned Datamonitor analyst Andrew Russell.

But he added that there is potential for cholesterol-lowering ingredients to be added to other staples, such as cereals and milk, provided that it can appeal to consumer tastes. If Flavomare is as tasty as its developer claims, it could have a major competitive advantage in this segment.

The compound has also been shown to help stop acrylamide, the cancer-causing chemical identified by Swedish scientists last year, from forming.

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