Whole-hearted innovation: Food as medicine and “spiceuticals” gain ground in CVD prevention

10 Feb 2021 — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause high-profile damage, cardiovascular disease (CVD) silently remains the number one cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, the ongoing global pandemic has highlighted the urgency to improve heart health, as CVD has been linked to more severe disease outcomes.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in adults in the US, and North America is anticipated to hold a major share in the heart health arena, Andrea Zangara, head of scientific communication and marketing at Euromed tells NutritionInsight. 

“However, Asia Pacific is expected to have the highest CAGR over the coming years,” he adds.   

For chronic diseases, prevention is often the best medicine. But staying active, eating the right balance and fruits and vegetables can be challenges for consumers, offering opportunity for nutraceuticals to help facilitate a healthy lifestyle.

NutritionInsight speaks with Akay Natural Ingredient, Kappa Bioscience, Euromed and AstaReal on important ingredients for heart health products and how to stand out in a crowded market. 

Click to EnlargeSpiceuticals from curcumin, ginger and frankincense are positioned against inflammation.Targeting specific functions of the heart 
The heart health market is very competitive, according to Andie Long, marketing and sales manager at AstaReal. 

“That’s why there is a lot of development to be more specific about heart health benefits, such as an ingredient’s effect on blood pressure, blood flow, cholesterol levels and plaque formation. These claims are likely to stand out.” 

Dr. Krishnakumar I M, chief research officer at Akay, agrees that specific benefits are a leading area of innovation, with supplement suppliers taking inspiration from cardiovascular disease treatments.

New areas to explore include using safe and natural agents as diuretics, anticoagulants or antiplatelets, antianginal agents, inotropic agents, vasodilators, sclerosing agents, anti-hypertensive agents, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, he details. 

And while these may be important in the future as nutrition moves increasingly toward personalization, heart health innovation is still in “an infant stage.” 

Today, ingredients are mainly centered around hypercholesterolemia, bodyweight management and antioxidants, he says. 

A holistic approach
Long notes that the trend toward holistic health should not be underestimated when considering heart health innovation. 

“Most people now look at their health and body as a whole. They don’t want to take many different supplements and prefer combination products.”  

For example, AstaReal natural astaxanthin ticks several healthy aging boxes – from eye and muscle health to cognitive function – and can be combined with a broad range of other ingredients, she explains. 

The market for more cross-functional claims can also be seen in the rising demand for vitamin K2, which targets immune, bone and heart health, according to Trygve Bergeland, vice president of science at Kappa Bioscience.   

“Vitamin K2 plays a key role in keeping calcium in balance,” he adds. With this mechanism to transport calcium into bones, K2 is also considered important for bone health.

He further notes that a disturbance in the calcium balance could promote excessive inflammatory and thrombus formation, flagging the importance of keeping these minerals in balance for general well-being. 

Food as medicineClick to EnlargeThe Mediterranean diet has been shown to promote longevity and protect from chronic diseases when compared with a low-fat diet.
Moreover, eating healthy foods has been shown to play an important role. Andrea Zangara, head of scientific communication and marketing at Euromed, asserts that the “food as medicine” concept is gaining more support.

“It is largely demonstrated the Mediterranean diet promotes longevity, protects from chronic diseases and reduces deaths from heart disease 30 percent more compared with a low-fat diet,” he says. 

However, specific compounds of the Mediterranean diet may be more relevant than others to heart health. 

“Hydroxytyrosol and related polyphenol compounds from olive fruit and olive oil offer protection to the blood lipids from oxidative damage, which is known to adversely affect cardiovascular health.” 

“Pomegranate does not have any health claims approved. However, there are hundreds of studies supporting cardiovascular vascular and endothelial benefits,” he says. 

The spiceuticals category
Dr. I M at Akay agrees that diet plays a critical role in promoting heart health. For those who do not manage their five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day and 25 g of fiber, nutraceuticals are an attractive option.

“Nutraceuticals, especially those derived from food components such as fruits, vegetables and spices, can fight against the risk factors and inflammation.” 

The R&D at Akay is engaged in developing clinically validated nutritional ingredients from spices (spiceuticals) capable of modulating the CVD risk factors safely. 

“There is a tremendous opportunity for natural and food-grade formulations for molecules like curcumin, gingerols and boswellic acids” he says.

However, the bioavailability of these types of phytonutrients is a big concern. 

To address this, Akay has developed FENUMAT technology, a natural self-emulsifying, hydrogel-mediated delivery system.  

The technology generates highly bioavailable and water-soluble powders for its ResQfen, CurQfen, CoQfen, Gingifen and BosQfen ingredients for pharma and food delivery forms. 

Get moving 
Lastly, as exercise has shown to have a significant impact in reducing the risks of CVD, Long suggests fitness positionings for heart health may be successful. 

For example, these could be for products that help consumers prepare for exercise, give them energy during the workout and support their recovery.

Ingredients like glucosamine also show important health promise. An epidemiological study last December found that the supplement decreased the risk of mortality by an even greater degree than regular exercise, spurring further research into its potential to ward off CVD. 

By Missy Green

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