Industry and academia partner to create cholesterol-reducing snacks

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Plant sterols Sterol

In an arrangement where university researchers will supply ideas to
industry, Corazonas Foods has paired up in an exclusive deal with
Brandeis University for use of the institution's technology in
heart-healthy snacks.

As part of the agreement, Corazonas will use Brandeis' technology to create new categories of heart-healthy snacks with high levels of plant sterols. Brandeis' technology allows these phytonutrients to be included in snack foods while still retaining the products' flavor. The collaboration begs the question of how healthy snack foods can really be. While they can be a delivery system for extra nutrients, they can also be a delivery system for added sugars, fats and salts. On the other hand, this may be an effective way of getting nutrients to consumers, as they demand healthful snack alternatives but are not willing to sacrifice the taste. "We've been able to take an American favorite, tortilla chips, and produce them with healthy ingredients to create a crunchy, good-for-you and absolutely delicious snack,"​ said Ramona Cappello, Corazonas Foods chief executive officer. "In the United States, half the population suffers from borderline to high cholesterol." ​ The partnership's first venture was Corazonas Heart-healthy tortilla chips. The company claims these are the only snack chips clinically proven to reduce LDL (or, "bad") cholesterol by up to 15 percent. Debuting in early 2006, Corazonas says the chips have been a success. "Brandeis is thrilled that Corazonas is successfully turning our basic discovery into products that have both a positive health benefit and are gaining broad acceptance by consumers,"​ said Irene Abrams, executive director of the Office of Technology Licensing at Brandeis University. "We are confident that Corazonas will be as successful with its new line of products as they have been with the tortilla chips." ​ Phytosterols, cholesterol-like molecules derived from plants, are increasingly well known to consumers due to their scientifically proven ability to reduce cholesterol levels. As consumer awareness has increased, the number of products containing plant sterols or plant stanols and their esters has increased. Some studies have suggested that the cholesterol-lowering activity of plant sterols is actually improved by its use alongside fats - such as has been made popular in buttery spreads and margarines. Brandeis researchers patented a technology that allows for the creation of foods fortified with chemically unmodified plant sterols. The Brandeis team claims its technology makes natural plant sterols biologically available in oils at concentrations of 2 to 25 percent, enabling them to effectively block cholesterol absorption and reduce LDL levels. The University has licensed its patents exclusively for snack products with Corazonas. The company says it will in turn create new categories of plant-sterol enhanced snack foods including cookies, crackers and potato chips. The tortilla chips are currently available in three flavors: original, jalapeño jack and salsa picante. Corazonas says it will launch additional flavors - margarita lime, cilantro salsa fresca and baja bean dip - this fall.

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