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The CLYMBOL project: how health-related claims and symbols impact consumer behaviour

A cutting-edge research project comprising research institutes and communication experts across Europe has set out to study the role of health-related claims and symbols in consumer behaviour. One of the goals of CLYMBOL is to understand how claims and symbols appear on food and drink products, in their context, and how this information can help guide consumer behaviour. In addition, a toolbox will be produced to support guidance in measuring the impact of claims and symbols on understanding, purchase and consumption behaviour. Findings will be used to design better communication activities and draw implications for policy makers and the European food industry.

There are 14 partners working on the CLYMBOL project, which is more than half way through its planned four years. It is split into six main work areas and receives partial funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration.  

The project's first work area focusses on the history of health-related claim and symbol use across EU member states; their current prevalence on food packaging and in which context the claims and symbols appear. Among other things, 53 European key representatives from national food authorities, representatives of the food industry and consumer organisations were interviewed. Results showed that there are vast differences in Europe when it comes to how health claims and symbols have been regulated before 2006, and how their use was monitored. The stakeholder groups did express a strong interest in evaluating the impact of health claims and symbols, in particular (1) the role of health claims and symbols in consumer behaviour; (2) their impact on public health; and (3) economic effects. Building on these findings, researchers have sampled more than 2,000 food and drink products in five EU member states and are currently analysing the packaging for product- and health-related information. They are reviewing which claims and symbols are found, how they are classified and the nutritional composition of foods carrying those claims and symbols.

Consumer needs and wants with regards to health claims and symbols are important to identify in CLYMBOL. In a second work area of the project, the researchers are looking at consumer models of health (e.g. their beliefs and inferences related to specific health outcomes) and how they use these models to interpret nutrition and health claims. Furthermore, an online study of European consumers in 10 countries was undertaken to assess how motivated and able food shoppers were in processing health claims and symbols on food products, and whether there are country-specific or segment-specific differences, such as social demographics. In general, European consumers' motivation and ability to process health claims differed little between claims and symbols. How motivated people were to process health-related claims depended strongly on their 'need for information', while 'subjective knowledge about the healthiness of food' correlated strongly with how able people were to process claims.

A methodological toolbox will be developed, as part of the third work area, to enable researchers and other stakeholders such as public authorities, industry and consumer organisations to measure the impact of health claims and symbols on consumer understanding, purchase and consumption behaviour. The toolbox will cover a range of tested and validated methods, explaining how to apply each technique; which research questions are most suitable and how to undertake the analysis and interpretation. The toolbox will be made publicly available at the end of the project.

In work area four, a wide range of European studies will be undertaken to empirically investigate the effects of health claims and symbols on consumer understanding, purchase and consumption behaviour. This will take the form of in-store and experimental studies in selected supermarkets. Methods that will be applied include eye-tracking of consumers, household panel data, surveys and actual food and nutrient intake during consumption. This work will be completed by early 2016.

The implications of findings from work areas one to four for different stakeholders (consumers, industry, retailers, non-governmental organisations, policy makers and others), including actionable recommendations for communication and education around health claims and symbols, will be analysed in the fifth work package. Furthermore, researchers will study the effect on consumer awareness, perception and understanding of a social media-based health logo campaign, which ran in the Netherlands in 2014.   

The project also has a separate work area which focusses on the dissemination and communication of CLYMBOL. All project information can be accessed through the project website at


On March 20, 2015, Villa San Martino in Barasso (Italy) hosted the first edition of NUTRA DAY, a 360º seminar on nutraceuticals, organized by Cum Grano Salis Ltd.
The different topics, of high scientific relevance, were articulated in several speeches on generic key nutraceutical issues.
The scientific curator and moderator of the day, Prof. Martina of Pavia University, made an opening recommendation to be rigorous in suggesting nutraceuticals, and then works started with the analysis of "The Pharmacy as a market", by Dr. Brambilla of IMS Health, in which the OTC market in pharmacies emerged as in constant expansion and supporting figures showed nutraceuticals are a significant chunk of the Italian OTC pie.
The very actual subject "Nutraceuticals and self-care Medical Devices: formulation and legal product innovation's opportunities" saw Dr. Di Fulvio explaining that ECJ (European Court of Justice) has already recognised that the capacity to bring back to functional levels, fix and modify physiological functions is not exclusive to medicines and that dose-effect relationship, characterisation and safety are fundamentals to identify new opportunities also when it comes to Nutraceutical Medical Devices.
Dr. Mogna from Probiotical with "Innovative technologies to support probiotics effectiveness" analysed probiotics considering their fundamental role within the nutraceutical world both for practices and pharmacies, and he underlined how modern selection criteria of probiotics go hand-in-hand with new needs such as biocompatibility.
Prof. Eandi, from AIFA, in "Economic-health value of nutraceuticals for patients, national health system and Italian society" spoke of nutraceuticals under the different perspective of "nutri-economy", based on experiences of pharma-economy studies and having developed the concept of "complex systems". He explained how scientific evidence on the role of nutrients within diseases' prevention and progression has pushed health decision makers to promote the importance of natural supplements as a health tool.
Prof. Daglia, of Pavia University, spoke about "Nutraceutical active products: present situation, evolution and developments" on the long awaited evolution of nutraceutical supplements, highlighting how claims must be based on widely accepted scientific evidence, understandable by the average consumer.
Dr. Benatti from Sigma-Tau showed us the steps of a nutraceutical supplement from the inception till its market launch in "Developing the ideal nutraceutical".
Dr. Francolini from Filarete Foundation took us into the hi-tech research world applied to nutraceuticals with: "The role of in vitro models in screening and creating new nutraceuticals" which taught us how in vitro tests open new screening and evaluation opportunities of nutraceuticals.

The next edition of NUTRA DAY is set to take place in Milan, Italy, during March 2016.

More flavorful, healthful chocolate could be on its way

Chocolate has many health benefits — it can potentially lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce stroke risk. But just as connoisseurs thought it couldn't get any better, there's this tasty new tidbit: Researchers have found a way to make the treat even more nutritious –– and sweeter.
On March 24th 2015, they described their research at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. The meeting featured nearly 11,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. Cocoa undergoes several steps before it takes shape as a candy bar. Workers cut down pods from cocoa trees, then split open the pods to remove the white or purple cocoa beans. They are fermented in banana-lined baskets for a few days and then set out to dry in the sun. Roasting, the next step, brings out the flavor. But some of the healthful polyphenols (antioxidants) are lost during the roasting process, so the researchers wanted to figure out a way to retain as much of the polyphenols and good flavors as possible.
"We decided to add a pod-storage step before the beans were even fermented to see whether that would have an effect on the polyphenol content," said Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, Ph.D., who is at the University of Ghana. "This is not traditionally done, and this is what makes our research fundamentally different. It's also not known how roasting affects polyphenol content."
Afoakwa's team divided 300 pods into four groups that were either not stored at all or stored for three, seven or 10 days before processing. This technique is called "pulp preconditioning." After each storage period passed, fermentation and drying were done as usual. He reported that the seven-day storage resulted in the highest antioxidant activity after roasting.
To assess the effects of roasting, the researchers took samples from each of the storage groups and roasted them at the same temperature for different times. The current process is to roast the beans for 10-20 minutes at 248-266 degrees Fahrenheit, he explains. Afoakwa's team adjusted this to 45 minutes at 242 degrees Fahrenheit and discovered that this slower roasting at a lower temperature increased the antioxidant activity compared to beans roasted with the conventional method. In addition, the beans that were stored and then roasted for 45 minutes had more polyphenols and higher antioxidant activity than beans whose pods were not stored prior to fermentation, said Afoakwa. He explained that pulp preconditioning likely allowed the sweet pulp surrounding the beans inside the pod to alter the biochemical and physical constituents of the beans before the fermentation. "This aided the fermentation processes and enhanced antioxidant capacity of the beans, as well as the flavor," he said. He added that the new technique would be particularly useful for countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America where cocoa beans produce a chocolate with a less intense chocolate flavor and have reduced antioxidant activity.
Looking to the future, he said the team will be studying in more detail the effects of roasting on the flavor of freshly picked compared to stored cocoa beans. They will be testing different temperatures and roasting and storing times to determine if even higher amounts of antioxidants can be retained through the process.
The researchers acknowledge funding from the Belgium Government under the VLIR TEAM Cocoa Project between Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, and the University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana.

Broccoli sprout extract promising for head and neck cancer prevention

Broccoli sprout extract protects against oral cancer in mice and proved tolerable in a small group of healthy human volunteers, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC Cancer Center, has announced at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
The promising results will be further explored in a human clinical trial, which will recruit participants at high risk for head and neck cancer recurrence later this year. This research is funded through Pitt's Specialized Program of Research Excellence grant in head and neck cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
"People who are cured of head and neck cancer are still at very high risk for a second cancer in their mouth or throat, and, unfortunately, these second cancers are commonly fatal," said lead author Julie Bauman, M.D., M.P.H., co-director of the UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Center of Excellence. "So we're developing a safe, natural molecule found in cruciferous vegetables to protect the oral lining where these cancers form".
Previous studies, including large-scale trials in China, have shown that cruciferous vegetables that have a high concentration of sulforaphane - such as broccoli, cabbage and garden cress - help mitigate the effects of environmental carcinogens.
Dr. Bauman collaborated with Daniel E. Johnson, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Pitt and a senior scientist in the UPCI Head and Neck Cancer Program, to test sulforaphane in the laboratory. For several months, Dr. Johnson and his team gave sulforaphane to mice predisposed to oral cancer and found that it significantly reduced the incidence and number of tumors.
"The clear benefit of sulforaphane in preventing oral cancer in mice raises hope that this well-tolerated compound also may act to prevent oral cancer in humans who face chronic exposure to environmental pollutants and carcinogens," said Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Bauman treated 10 healthy volunteers with fruit juice mixed with sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract. The volunteers had no ill-effects from the extract and protective changes were detectable in the lining of their mouths, meaning it was absorbed and directed to at-risk tissue.
These findings were enough to prompt a clinical trial that will recruit 40 volunteers who have been curatively treated for head and neck cancer. The participants will regularly take capsules containing broccoli seed powder to determine if they can tolerate the regimen and whether it has enough of an impact on their oral lining to prevent cancer. From there, larger clinical trials could be warranted.
"We call this 'green chemoprevention,' where simple seed preparations or plant extracts are used to prevent disease," said Dr. Bauman, also an associate professor in Pitt's School of Medicine. "Green chemoprevention requires less money and fewer resources than a traditional pharmaceutical study, and could be more easily disseminated in developing countries where head and neck cancer is a significant problem."

Discovery of gene that determines cocoa butter melting point to have far-reaching effects

The discovery of a gene involved in determining the melting point of cocoa butter -- a critical attribute of the substance widely used in foods and pharmaceuticals -- will likely lead to new and improved products, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
The finding by plant geneticists also should lead to new varieties of the cocoa plant that could extend the climate and soil-nutrient range for growing the crop and increase the value of its yield, they said, providing a boost to farmers' incomes in the cocoa-growing regions of the world.
Cacao, Theobroma cacao L., is an understory tropical tree domesticated in the Amazon basin and today widely cultivated in West Africa, Central and South America and Southeast Asia. Around the world, more than five million cocoa farmers -- and more than 40 million people total -- depend on cocoa for their livelihood, according to the World Cocoa Foundation, which puts annual cocoa production worldwide at 3.8 million tons, valued at $11.8 billion.
Cacao pods, each containing around 40 seeds, are harvested approximately 20 weeks after pollination. The seeds contain about 50 percent total lipids (cocoa butter), which provides a main raw ingredient for chocolate manufacturing as well as ingredients for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.
Cocoa butter with altered melting points may find new uses in specialty chocolates, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, said lead researcher Mark Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology, who has been conducting research on the cacao tree for three decades. For example, a chocolate with a higher or lower melting point would be useful for production of chocolate with specific textures and specialty applications.
Cacao seeds after harvest. A mixture of lipids called cocoa butter makes up about half of each seed. The natural melting point of cocoa butter is close to human body temperature. This trait gives chocolate its melt-in-your-mouth texture and provides a creamy texture to lotions applied to the skin.
"The 'snap' and 'melt' of chocolate are two very important textural features that determine the appeal of chocolate to consumers, and having new varieties of the cocoa plant that produce butter with different melting points would be a valuable resource to control those characteristics," Guiltinan explained. "Medical applications could include production of drug-delivery products with slower release of drugs than is possible with current cocoa-butter-based systems."
Collaborating on the research were Siela Maximova, senior scientist and professor of horticulture, and Yufan Zhang, who received a doctoral degree in plant biology in January of 2015.
In a previous study, a stearoyl-acyl carrier protein desaturase (SAD) gene family was first described in the chocolate tree, by Guiltinan's laboratory and collaborators from the International Cocoa Genome Consortium, which sequenced the entire genome of the plant.
In this follow-up research, described online in Frontiers in Plant Science (Plant Genetics and Genomics Section), the SAD gene family is examined in detail, and the expression patterns of each SAD gene in various cacao tissues is explored along with functional analysis to study how the enzyme works.
Researchers discovered that a single gene -- TcSAD1 -- is primarily involved in the synthesis of cocoa butter and is responsible for its melting point.
"We used state-of-the-art plant science techniques to gain evidence for the role of the SAD1 gene in cocoa butter biosynthesis," Guiltinan said. "The other SAD genes appear to play other roles in the growth of the chocolate tree, such as flower and leaf development, where these fatty acids play important roles as key components of various membrane systems. This information can be used to develop biomarkers for screening and breeding of new cacao varieties with novel fatty acid compositions of cocoa butter."
Notably, cocoa butter consists of almost equal amounts of palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid. Its exact composition determines its melting temperature, which is very close to human body temperature, thus providing the smoothness and feel of chocolate in the mouth, as well as the creamy texture of cosmetics on skin.
"During cacao seed development, large amounts of fatty acids are synthesized  hat are rich in saturated and monounsaturated lipids," Guiltinan said. "An important part of this process is the activity of an enzyme produced by the SAD1 gene that creates a special double bond critical in determining the melting point of chocolate, that is very close to the human body temperature and makes cocoa butter quite unique."
The research was supported by Penn State, the University's College of Agricultural Sciences, The Huck Institutes of Life Sciences and the American Research Institute Penn State Endowed Program in the Molecular Biology of Cacao.
Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences

Narogen® Energy Collagen Mask is a natural water-soluble extract which moisturizes, rejuvenates, and renews your skin cells. Because Narogen® Energy Collagen Mask is rich in amino acids, minerals, and antioxidants, it plays an important role in metabolism. Therefore, Narogen® Energy Collagen Mask facilitates the production of collagen and the function of repairing damaged skin cells. By sloughing off dead skin cells and impurities, your skin tone becomes lighten and firm. Collagen and elastin are natural skin moisturizer which can absorb up to thirty times of water; therefore, they can improve the moisture of your skin, help skin cell repair, and smoothen your skin. Apply Narogen® Energy Collagen Mask regularly to help prevent wrinkles

The Barry Callebaut Group has announced the opening of its new state-of –the-art CHOCOLATE ACADEMY™ centre in Russia's capital, Moscow. In 2008 Barry Callebaut opened its first training centre for chocolate professionals on the premises of its chocolate factory in Chekhov, 60 km south of Moscow. Relocated now to the city centre of Moscow, the new CHOCOLATE ACADEMY™ will remain a unique training centre in Russia. It is the only such centre to offer a diverse range of seminars, demonstrations, theoretical courses and practical workshops, designed to inspire artisans and culinary professionals, including chocolatiers, pastry chefs, bakery and other chocolate experts as well as culinary professionals working in hotels, restaurants and the catering business. The centre will also serve as a meeting place for chocolate professionals encouraging the exchange of technical expertise among each other. The new CHOCOLATE ACADEMY™ centre will showcase the knowledge accumulated over more than 150 years by Barry Callebaut's global Gourmet chocolate brands Callebaut® (Belgium artisanal chocolate), Cacao Barry® (French artisanal chocolate) and Carma® (Swiss artisanal chocolate). The well-known French chef, Wielfried Hauwell, will share his experience in the art of chocolate and act as the Head of the new CHOCOLATE ACADEMY™ center in Moscow. "With our relocated, modernized training centre, we aim to empower all chocolate professionals in the region to create and express themselves with all the chocolates we are offering – way beyond the technical barriers of this wonderful working material", comments Hauwell. "Chefs and confectioners hardly find an occasion or a central place in Russia where they can further develop their skills, learn from experienced expert teachers and exchange new ideas among each other. Our new training centre for chocolate now centrally located in Russia's capital Moscow will serve as such a spot! It is a unique place where we are cultivating an atmosphere of curiosity, creativity and inspiration for both professionals and chocolate lovers", he adds.

Novozymes has announced the launch of a new enzyme targeting the production of maltose syrups. The new product, known as Secura, helps to optimize operations and reduce processing costs. The starch industry is one of the longest-standing markets for enzymes, and produces a wide range of sweeteners and ingredients used within the food industry. Secura is a thermostable, low-pH beta amylase enzyme for maltose syrup production. Secura has a higher product activity than plant-sourced beta amylase products – and this activity level remains stable during storage. This stability results in simpler, more consistent dosing and processing that does not need constant monitoring. As Secura is microbial-based, it is Chometz-free Kosher and Halal-certified, which is becoming increasingly important in the sweetener market. "The fact that Secura tolerates higher temperatures offers an important benefit to starch producers," says Frederik Mejlby, Marketing Director for Novozymes' Grain Processing. "Maltose syrups are typically produced at lower temperatures 55°-60° C, and have a relatively low osmotic pressure. This means that there is a risk that unwanted microorganisms can grow during saccharification. Keeping saccharification at higher temperature minimizes the risk of bacterial infections - and Secura works well at temperatures as high as 70°C".

Indena's involvement in the growing sports nutrition market is confirmed by the company's participation in the Football Medicine Strategies for Player Care Conference, The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on April 11th and 12th. For over two decades this conference has been the meeting point of the international Football Medicine Community. On this occasion, Indena presented a study on Meriva®, its proprietary lecithin-based and diet inspired delivery system of curcumin, confirming that its specific curcumin formulation may aid in sports nutrition by attenuating Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) due to eccentric muscle activity.

Vijaya Juturu Ph.D., F.A.C.N., Manager of Global Scientific and Clinical Affairs with OmniActive Health Technologies presented two posters on emerging science surrounding highly soluble curcumin (CurcuWIN™) during this year's Experimental Biology (EB) meeting, March 28th - April 1st at the Boston Convention and Exhibit Centre, Boston, Massachusetts (US). The curcumin posters were based on in vitro and in vivo model studies conducted by OmniActive in collaboration with researchers from Firat University (Turkey). The first study-Curcumin (CurcuWIN) Improves Antioxidant Capacity and Reduces Inflammation Following Downhill Running-Induced Muscle Damage-investigated the effects of curcumin supplementation on changes in serum parameters and antioxidant status of muscle in rats after exhaustive exercise on a motor-driven rodent treadmill. A significant decrease in LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides was also observed in CurcuWIN treated groups. These results suggest CurcuWIN is a potential ingredient for preventing muscle damage as well as improving exercise performance and increase in time of exhaustion.

IMCD N.V. and DSM have announced they have further expanded their successful partnership for food enzymes. The new multi-territory cooperation includes the Benelux, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, South Africa, SEE, Nordics, Turkey and UK & Ireland and represents the conclusion of successful business transitions in all territories. The main food enzyme market sectors include bakery, brewing, confectionery, dairy and fruit & vegetable processing. Gokhan Oran, IMCD Business Group Director Food & Nutrition, comments: "IMCD is delighted to strengthen its partnership with DSM in Europe. As a leading supplier in the food enzymes market, the DSM range will further enhance our product and technical offering to our customers. We hope to build on our successes to date and extend this cooperation with DSM to include more regions and to expand into other areas of the business in the future".

Toshiba Ltd and Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health collaborate in the development of a rapid and efficient DNA chip technology for testing 14 major types of food borne pathogens for applications in hygiene management in food manufacture, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. The researchers are affiliated with the Kawasaki INnovation Gateway at SKYFRONT, Japan. Conventional methods for testing food-borne pathogens is based on the cultivation of pathogens, a process that is complicated and time consuming. So there is demand for alternative methods to test for food-borne pathogens that are simpler, quick and applicable to a wide range of potential applications. Now Toshiba Ltd and Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health have collaborated in the development of a rapid and efficient automatic abbreviated DNA detection technology that can test for 14 major types of food borne pathogens. The so called 'DNA chip card' employs electrochemical DNA chips and overcomes the complicated procedures associated with genetic testing of conventional methods. The 'DNA chip card' is expected to find applications in hygiene management in food manufacture, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

Tate & Lyle announces plans for a further expansion of its operations in Lafayette, Indiana, US, investing $65 million. The expansion is expected to be operational by late 2016. Tate & Lyle will install new equipment at its Lafayette South facility, significantly expanding production of its KRYSTAR® Crystalline Fructose sweetener to meet growing demand in the Americas and Asia. In addition to the expansion, Tate & Lyle will also phase in environmental efficiencies as part of the investment. This announcement marks Tate & Lyle's second Indiana expansion within the last year, following an investment of more than $90 million at our Lafayette Sagamore facility for a number of projects, including an increase of its specialty food starch production capacity. "This expansion not only allows us to stay ahead of the global demand for crystalline fructose, but also gives us the opportunity and flexibility to continue to grow within the North American and emerging markets" said Joan Braca, President of Specialty Food Ingredients at Tate & Lyle. "We'd like to thank both the state of Indiana and the city of Lafayette for their ongoing support of projects like these and look forward to our continued relationship with them".

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