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The Essential Enzyme

Albion Minerals®

Food and digestive enzymes go hand in hand, so it was only a matter of time until the middleman was cut out and enzymes started going directly into functional foods and beverages.”

“According to Recent report by Frost & Sullivan, during the economic downturn in the past year, food enzymes were viewed as processing aids that helped to cut manufacturing costs for food products through enhancing process efficiency,” explained Dr. Lakshmi Prakash, vice president of innovation and business development at Sabinsa Corp. (East Windsor, NJ).“According to their analysis, the European market earned revenues of $407.5 million in 2009. This can greatly expand the market, given that digestive aids are not yet a popular category in the US dietary supplement industry.”

But the digestive health category is certainly growing, and that, too, is contributing to the food enzymes category’s growth. According to Nena Dockery, scientific and regulatory affairs manager at National Enzyme Company (Forsyth, MO), even though the market for enzymes is relatively small in relation to the whole natural products industry, interest in ingredients that address digestive health is growing, and enzymes are key ingredients in that category.“The sports market is also a very active segment and there has been a steady increase in requests for blends To improve digestion of high quantities of various protein supplements and foods,” she said. “Within the past year, we have experienced an increase in requests for different modes of administration, such as convenience packs and food applications.”

Special Delivery!

As more consumers look for products featuring enzymes, suppliers are finding ways to jump the many hurdles that come with attaining varied delivery of these fickle ingredients.

According to Prakash, enzymes cannot be added to most liquid products or products reaching certain temperatures, because they become easily compromised.

“Actually, enzymes have specific temperature, moisture and pH requirements for optimal activity. Ideally, supplemental enzymes should be added to dry products, so that they can act in the body when ingested,” she said. “If added to a liquid, as such, the enzyme could begin to work on breaking down the product components themselves, and would be unavailable to provide benefits in the body.” Prakash explained that if the enzyme needs to be added to a liquid product, it would have to be suitably encapsulated, such that it is activated only on reaching the gastrointestinal tract. “Also, enzymes are proteins by nature and are denatured (lose activity) if heated to high temperatures, or subjected to non-conducive environments, unless they are naturally thermostable, or are adequately protected by using appropriate technologies,” she added.

“At the present time, supplemental enzymes are not typically used in beverages or foods that have a high water content,” agreed Dockery. Since digestive enzymes are activated in the presence of water, their presence in any high-water food or beverage would cause a change in not only enzymatic action and food breakdown, but also a change in the taste and texture of the product. Even most foods contain too Much water and moisture to sustain an enzyme. While uncoated, enzymes are currently limited to powdered drink mixes; coated technology extends their reach to more conventional food applications.

“New ways of dispensing the enzymes into beverage products and advanced microencapsulation processes to protect the enzymes from moisture in foods have begun to broaden the applications in which enzymes can be utilized,” Dockery added.

Beyond this hurdle, enzymes are often not found in foods because of GRAS limitations. Though the majority of enzymes used in dietary supplements have GRAS status for use as processing aides, most do not have GRAS status as a direct ingredient in a conventional food, Dockery said. “Therefore, their use in these applications is limited by both physical and regulatory factors,” she said.

Breakthrough Solutions

Some companies are stepping up to be sure that interested manufacturers have ways to incorporate enzymes into foods and beverages. One such company, SEPPIC Inc. (Fairfield, NJ), offers its EXTRAMEL enzyme in three different grades; two of these grades are specific to food and beverage applications.

EXTRAMEL Microgranulas are fitted exclusively for tablets and capsules, dosed at 14 IU SOD/mg; EXTRAMEL D is a dispersible grade dosed at 1 IU SOD/mg, which can bear flash pasteurization, low pH and long shelf-life in the finished product thanks to its very stable encapsulation; EXTRAMEL Premix is a dispersible grade dosed at 10 IU SOD/mg, which is mainly used for powder mixes to be diluted into water by the end consumer.

According to Guillaume Lamy, the company’s pharma and nutrition business manager, regular dosage of the company’s ingredient is 140 IU SOD per day for a health benefit perception, but this amount can be increased depending on the targeted application; for example, a higher dosage for weight management and sports segments would be appropriate. “140 IU/day corresponds to 140mg/day of EXTRAMEL D, to 14mg of EXTRAMEL Premix, or to 10mg of EXTRAMEL Microgranules,” Lamy said. “These low quantities are very easy to incorporate into the final product.” As such, Lamy cited dairy, water, juices, cereal bars and margarines as appropriate applications for the ingredient.

Indeed, according to Dockery, blends of enzymes offering general digestive Support have increased steadily in strength over the past few years, reflecting both market perception and the idea that “more is better” now that digestive systems are more compromised than ever. “Because of the overall safety of these products, this dosage increase is possible,” she said. “Many of the enzymes that National Enzyme Company offers are very concentrated, so their activity by weight enables strong products to be administered in small capsules or tablets.”

“Americans have been slower to adopt digestive products than people in other countries, but this is starting to change as evidenced by the growth of yogurt-like products in the mainstream,” concluded Prakash. “We believe digestive enzymes may also grow in consumer acceptance as well.”