Top trends in Dietary Supplement Substances and ‘Functional Food’ Substances

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th August 2011

Australian Food News has conducted a review of international marketing trends in the fields of dietary supplements and functional foods.

Some such substances may not be permissible in Australia as foods, while some may require permission from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to be listed for sale in Australia as therapeutic products.

Our Australian Food News review reveals several interesting trends. In particular, the marketing claims reveal the health function promotion priority claims for such products.

1. Probiotics trend

Topping the market in recent years has been the growth in functional probiotics.
By way of background, probiotics are live micro-organisms claimed to be beneficial to the host human. Typically, probiotic products are fermented foods with added active live cultures such as those found in yoghurt or fermented beverage formulated supplements.

Acidophilus Bifidus contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis, beneficial bacteria which are being marketed to restore and maintain gut flora.

Common food sources include some yoghurt-like products like kefir, but also some white cheeses, as well as some pickled vegetable products such as sauerkrauts.

In addition, there is a growing trend for inclusion in numerous TGA-listed supplements and therapeutics.

2. Polyphenols trend

Polyphenols fall a close second in functional food claims in association with anti-oxidant properties. Polyphenols are being claimed to have anti-oxidant functionality that retards free radicals and protect against age-associated disorders. Many such health benefits from using these products do not appear to have been scientifically confirmed or approved by regulatory authorities but are claimed to be supported by some preliminary research.

For example, resveratrolis is a type of natural phenol produced by several plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi, and is being widely used as a dietary supplement.

The polyphenol market trend is also demonstrated by the promotion of numerous berry varieties. One recent concern about constituents concerns sea-buckthorn berries that carry claims of functionality benefits in relation to human inflammatory disorders. Specific health benefits for humans may not yet have been fully substantiated by some marketers.

Polyphenols are found in a wide array of phytochemical-bearing foods including: honey; legumes; fruits such as apples, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, grapes, pears, and strawberries; and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, celery, onion and parsley. Red wine, chocolate, green tea, olive oil, argan oil, bee pollen and grains are also claimed as sources.

3. Omega 3 trend

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential unsaturated fatty acids that cannot be synthesized by the human body but are said to improve normal metabolism, and to improve heart health or at least present a healthier alternative to other fats and oils.

Amongst the Omega 3-rich food-related products include fish oils derived either from krill, salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines being rich sources of Omega 3. Chia, a species of flowering plant in the mint family has seeds that are said to be rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and are being promoted in dietary supplements. Perilla, also in the mint family, provides essential oils that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

New food-related products such as Barley-Max developed by Australian researchers at the CSIRO ensure that the Omega 3 promotion trend will continue to grow.

Vitamin D trend

In humans Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and overall health.

Cod liver oil is considered a good source of Vitamin D. Other fish oils that provide a rich source of Vitamin D include oils from salmon, herring, catfish, halibut and mackerel.

Ergocalciferol, also known as Vitamin D2 and marketed under various names including Deltalin, Drisdol and Calcidol. Cholecalciferol is widely used as a Vitamin D supplement. Cholecalciferol, also known as Vitamin D3, is said to be longer lasting and more effective at raising vitamin D levels in the blood than any other Vitamin D supplements.

Regulatory cross-over

In Australia, the regulatory environment for functional foods, dietary supplements, formulated beverages, food supplements, nutraceuticals and botanical-extracts crosses a number of separate regulatory regimes. Food regulatory agencies have jurisdiction for some aspects while the TGA (referred to above) also has jurisdiction in relation to products that make therapeutic claims. In addition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and State food enforcement agencies continue to maintain strong scrutiny of such claims.

Upcoming Symposium on marketing regulatory questions

The Australian specialist food industry law firm FoodLegal is running an important Symposium on the regulatory interface between foods and therapeutic goods on Monday 10 October 2011 in Sydney. This symposium brings together Australia’s leading experts and government regulators in relation to the marketing of products that make health functional claims or have therapeutic properties. The Symposium will address which regulatory criteria apply and when different regulatory choices apply.

The FoodLegal Symposium is called ‘Healthy Bodies of Law: Food or Therapeutic? Finding Advantages In The Regulatory Differences’. Places are still available but pre-booking is essential to secure a place. To obtain more information, click here.