€26m Spanish functional foods initiative targets the elderly

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

More functional foods for the elderly may be on the horizon in Spain
More functional foods for the elderly may be on the horizon in Spain

Related tags Nutrition

A Spanish government-backed scheme that unites academia and business is set to deliver a range of functional food solutions at the end of next year targeting health issues suffered by the country’s rising numbers of elderly people.

Health concerns being tackled include metabolic syndrome, bone, muscle, gastrointestinal and visual health, as well as cognitive function and neurodegenerative disorders.

The SENIFOOD project kicked into life last year after the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation committed to a 50 per cent investment in the €26m project with the other half coming from industry players like the four Spanish ingredients suppliers and seven food companies.

It is due to complete by the end of 2012. Particular applications under development using Naturex botanical extracts and other ingredients included beverages for cognitive wellbeing; for blood glucose management; for reducing fat mass and cardiovascular function.

SENIFOOD project coordinator, Alvin Ibarra, the strategic research programme manager at Naturex, one of the four ingredient suppliers along with Biopolis, Bioiberica and Nutrafur, said ingredient development under the project was progressing rapidly.

“Working together like this in a project with such large dimensions has opened up a whole range of possibilities and advantages to develop products and concepts and applications more quickly,” ​Ibarra told NutraIngredients.

“Through the network we have been able to work with elderly people directly and we are meeting almost daily with the other partners. There are a lot of things under development.”

At its current stage, the project has four main priorities:

  • Defining foods and diets eaten by the elderly
  • Developing existing and new ingredients
  • Developing new products for the elderly market
  • Validating in vivo, in vitro ​and clinical trial data

Many elderly people, fewer elderly food products

Ibarra said one of the major motivations for establishing the project was the rising number of elderly people in Spain (17 per cent) and the lack of foods targeting their health concerns.

“There are not too many products for the elderly so there is clearly a need.”

The Spanish food makers involved in the project are Campofrio, Central Lechera Asturiana, Tutti Pasta, Mugala Innova, Laboratories Ordesa, Bodega Mataaomera and Custom Drinks.

They are working with 25 academic institutions.

A SENIFOOD statement said: From the scientific point of view, the aim of the SENIFOOD project is to advance the understanding of the mechanisms of action of the functional food ingredients targeting the most common metabolic diseases in the elderly.”

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