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The SACN report on Carbohydrates and Health – Fibre is back on the table

On July 17th, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has published the final version of its “Carbohydrates and Health” report.  Leatherhead Food Research recognises the significance of the SACN report and its recommendations and the potential health benefits that it may bring for a large proportion of the UK population.

The report presents several challenges. Firstly, from a public health perspective the guidelines must be clear and understandable for consumers such that they recognise what action they can take. This means that definitions and terminology will need to be understood and that on-pack communication should be aligned. Secondly, the recommendations present the food industry with further reformulation challenges alongside innovation and new product opportunities.

“The SACN report recommendations are part of a bigger picture to improve public health, no one aspect of the diet, be it free sugars or fibre can make a significant difference alone. The findings of the report will be a challenge for both consumers and industry alike.” Jenny Arthur as Director of Nutrition & Innovation.

What is happening with sugars?

  • The SACN report has removed the previous term ‘Non milk extrinsic sugars’ and replaced it with the term free sugars. These are sugars added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, plus sugar naturally found in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juice. The definition of free sugars excludes milk sugars, naturally found in milk and sugars contained in cell walls, for example in whole fruit.
  • The report recommends that free sugars should make up 5% of dietary energy intake for those over 2 years of age. This is half the current recommended intake. This equates to a reduction from 200 kcal (12.5 teaspoons or 50g) to 100 kcal (6.25 teaspoons or 25g) of total energy intake from free sugars, based on daily reference intake 2,000 kcal for an average woman.
  •  The report gives advice for adults and children to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.


What are consumers expected to do with the SACN information?

The recommended reduction of free sugars represents a significant challenge for consumers if they are to meet these recommendations. 5% of total energy equates to approximately 30g of free sugars per day for a man and 25g per day for a woman.

However the challenge of communicating the right messages to consumers is made more difficult by the way in which sugars are communicated on pack. Figures shown on-pack represent the total sugar content in each product, without identifying the amount of free sugars.

This makes it hard for consumers to calculate their total intake of free sugars across a range of products, even if it is assumed that the definitions are understood. What is clear however, is that the 25g recommendation per day will require much closer scrutiny by consumers of the products they choose to eat.


What is the current labelling legislation?

Currently in the UK and EU, back of pack nutrition labelling is voluntary for most pre-packed foods with a few exceptions; including when a food is fortified with vitamins, or when a nutrition claim is made. However this will change in December 2016, when back of pack nutrition labelling becomes mandatory for most pre-packed foods.

In our view the SACN report is likely to increase pressure on businesses to use voluntary front of pack nutrition labelling, which includes the traffic light labelling system in the UK. However, this voluntary system currently uses ‘total sugars’ as the criteria (which is set by the accompanying EU regulation, 1169/2011) rather than ‘free sugars’.

Changes to EU and associated UK labelling legislation as a result of this report are unlikely, at least in the short term, as changes would need to be agreed in Brussels by all EU member states. Best practice guidance however, could be updated more easily.


What are some of the challenges faced by the industry when reformulating products to reduce sugar levels?

The challenge in reducing total sugar levels is that sugars added to products not only provide sweetness, but also bulk and other important functional properties, including a preservative function in many products.

The replacement of sugar with alternatives has to be carried out in an intelligent manner with a good understanding of the impact on product structure, sensory quality and shelf life. Advances in sugar replacers continue and provide industry with different options for sugar replacement.


How do consumers perceive reformulated products?

Recent consumer research conducted at Leatherhead using its database of over 10,000 consumers, has shown that in the case of sugar replacement, the sweetness perception can be affected in two ways: overall sweetness perceived and length of the perception. This offers critical insights into how the sweetness of a product is perceived during its consumption and at which point discrepancies are more pronounced between the original and an adapted formulation.


What is happening with dietary fibre?

The SACN report’s recommendation to increase fibre intakes is a significant move that will be equally challenging for consumers. The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Dietary fibre is to be chemically determined using the Association of Official Analytical Chemists method (AOAC) 2009.01. Previously the Englyst (NSP) method has been used.
  • Recommended intake of dietary fibre has been increased to 30g/day (AOAC) for adults from 23g/day (AOAC) an increase of 7g of fibre. This is equivalent to 2 slices of thick wholemeal bread.
  • For children 2 to 5years the SACN recommendation is 15g day, for children 5 to 10 years 20g/day, for children 11 to 16 years 25g/day and for children 16 to 18 years 30g/day.


What does 30g/day of fibre look like in foods?

The size of this challenge becomes clear when looking at the consumption required to reach it. In order to reach this goal each and every day, it would be necessary to consume around three to five servings of fibrous vegetables (for example peas, broccoli and carrots), two to four servings of fruit (for example an apple with skin, a portion of strawberries and an orange) plus three servings of wholegrain bread/pasta/beans/pulses (for example, two slices of wholemeal bread, lentils and wholemeal spaghetti).


What does the SACN report mean for the Food Industry?

The recommendations that SACN were likely to make have been known for some time, yet the challenges that will be faced by consumers and by industry are more apparent than ever.

The SACN recommendations are just one part of a complex and multi-dimensional public health matrix and whilst the clarity of the recommendations for intakes of free sugars and fibre will be welcomed in some quarters, it has also made it clear that there is significant work to do before consumers can be expected to act on the information.

The role that the food industry can play in reformulating and innovating will be a part of the solution but there will need to be more collective focus on the following points.

  • Helping consumers to understand the distinction between free sugars and total sugars.
  • Recognition that on-pack communication on sugars in the EU is not currently aligned with the SACN recommendation and that a regulated solution will take time to resolve.
  • Support and encouragement for consumers to move directionally towards a diet that is higher in fibre.
  • Continued innovation within existing products and via new products to help consumers meet the recommendations of the report.


System to boost levels of resveratrol, quercetin could provide new options for cancer therapy

Resveratrol and quercetin, two polyphenols that have been widely studied for their health properties, may soon become the basis of an important new advance in cancer treatment, primarily by improving the efficacy and potential use of an existing chemotherapeutic cancer drug.

Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in red wine and other foods, has already received much attention as a possible explanation for the “French paradox,” a low incidence of cardiovascular disease despite a diet often high in fats.

The new research suggests it may soon have value far beyond that.

In laboratory experiments, researchers at Oregon State University have developed a system to increase the bioavailability of these compounds in the body by using “copolymers” that make them water soluble and allow their injection into the blood stream, creating levels that are far higher than could ever be obtained by diet or oral intake.

The resveratrol and quercetin then appear to reduce the cardiac toxicity of a very widely used cancer drug, Adriamycin. Although highly effective in the treatment of lymphomas, breast, ovarian and other cancers, Adriamycin can only be used for a limited time in humans because of its cardiotoxicity.

The co-administration of these polyphenols might allow much more extensive use of this drug, while at the same time improving its efficacy and demonstrating the polyphenols’ own anti-cancer properties, scientists said.

Findings on this research have been published in the Journal of Controlled Release, by scientists from the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University and the School of Pharmacy at Pacific University. Both institutions supported the research.

“This has great potential to improve chemotherapeutic cancer treatment,” said Adam Alani, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author on the research.

“The co-administration of high levels of resveratrol and quercetin, in both in vitro and in vivo studies, shows that it significantly reduces the cardiac toxicity of Adriamycin,” Alani said. “And these compounds have a synergistic effect that enhances the efficacy of the cancer drug, by sensitizing the cancer cells to the effects of the drug.”

It’s possible, Alani said, that after further research it could be demonstrated that use of these compounds can completely eliminate the cardiotoxicity of Adriamycin, as they scavenge the toxic free radicals produced by use of this drug. It’s also possible, he said, that administration of these natural polyphenols could have value in cancer therapy by themselves, or in combination with a wider range of other chemotherapeutic drugs.

Resveratrol is a natural compound found in foods such as grapes, red wine, green tea, some fruits, berries and dark chocolate, and has been the subject of dozens of scientific studies for its various health values. Quercetin, also a powerful antioxidant, reaches some of its highest natural levels in capers, some berries, fruits, vegetables and leafy greens.

Although they are still valuable nutrients, these polyphenol compounds when eaten as foods or taken as supplements reach only a tiny fraction of the level that’s possible with direct injection.

And such injection was not possible until the OSU and Pacific University researchers adapted the use of “polymeric micelles” to help make the polyphenols water soluble, so they could be directly introduced into the body. Such systems have been used before with other compounds, but never these polyphenols.

“There are several advantages with this system,” Alani said. “We can finally reach clinical levels of these polyphenols in the body. We can load both the compounds at one time to help control the cardiotoxicity of the cancer drug, and we can help the polyphenols accumulate in cancer cells where they have their own anti-cancer properties.

“This is like hitting three birds with one stone,” Alani said. “It has great potential.”

Research has already shown that both resveratrol and quercetin appear to be safe at high concentrations in the body, Alani said, although continued research will study that issue, among others. And the fact that such delivery systems, as well as the cancer drugs, are already approved by the FDA should speed the clinical testing and possible medical use of this system, he said.

Oregon State University


New anti-aging tricks from dietary supplement seen in mice

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it. Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found that the dietary supplement alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, with positive effects in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.

The discovery highlights a potential avenue for the treatment for chronic diseases.

The results were published Thursday, August 20 in Cell Reports.

Alpha-lipoic acid has an essential role in mitochondria, the energy-generating elements of the cell,” says senior author Wayne Alexander, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. “It is widely available and has been called a ‘natural antioxidant’. Yet ALA’s effects in human clinical studies have been a mixed bag.”

ALA appears to exert its effects against atherosclerosis by spurring the smooth muscle cells that surround blood vessels to make PGC1 (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1)-alpha.

PGC1-alpha was already well known to scientists as controlling several aspects of how skeletal muscles respond to exercise. While the Emory researchers did not directly assess the effects of exercise in their experiments, their findings provide molecular clues to how exercise might slow the effects of aging or chronic disease in some cell types.

“The effects of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes on blood vessels can be traced back to telomere shortening,” Alexander says. “This means that treatments that can restore healthy telomeres have great potential.”

“What’s new here is that we show that PGC1-alpha is regulating telomerase, and that has real beneficial effects on cellular stress in a mouse model of atherosclerosis,” says Shiqin Xiong, PhD, instructor in the division of cardiology and first author of the paper.

Xiong and Alexander used a model of atherosclerosis where mice lacked the ApoE cholesterol processing gene and were fed a high-fat diet. In this model, mice also lacking PGC1-alpha have more advanced plaques in their blood vessels, but only in older animals, the authors show.

Consistent with the poorer state of their blood vessels, aortic cells from PGC1-alpha-disrupted mice had shorter telomeres and reduced telomerase activity. Having shortened telomeres led the smooth muscle cells to display more oxidative stress and damage to the rest of their DNA.

The authors show that introducing PGC1-alpha back into vascular smooth muscle cells lacking that gene with a gene-therapy adenovirus could restore telomerase activity and lengthen the cells’ telomeres.

Telomerase is off in most healthy cell types and only becomes turned on when cells proliferate. Because telomerase is active in cancer cells and enables their continued growth, researchers have been concerned that stimulating telomerase in all cells might encourage cancer growth or have other adverse effects.

As a way to boost PGC1-alpha in cells more conveniently, Xiong and Alexander turned to alpha lipoic acid or ALA. ALA is a sulfur-containing fatty acid used to treat diabetic neuropathy in Germany, and has previously been shown to combat atherosclerosis in animal models.

Treating isolated smooth muscle cells with ALA for one day could both stimulate PGC1-alpha and telomerase, the authors found. ALA’s effects on vascular smooth muscle cells could also be seen when it was injected into mice. Xiong and Alexander say they are now investigating the effects of ALA on other tissues in mice. They have not observed increased cancers in ALA-treated mice, but say more thorough investigation is needed to fully assess cancer risk.

“While ALA is present in many foods and its effects in animal models look promising, it may be problematic for clinical use because of its poor solubility, stability and bioavailability,” Xiong says. “We are designing new ways to formulate and deliver ALA-related compounds to resolve these issues.”

Co-authors include assistant professor Lu Hilenski, PhD, Nikolay Patrushev, MD and Farshad Forouzandeh, MD, PhD.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (HL60728) and as part of a Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology (HHSN268201000043C). 

Emory University


FMC Corporation
has announced that it has acquired all of the shares of Epax Nutra Holding III AS (Norway) and Epax UK Holding III AS (United Kingdom) (together, "Epax"), a leading manufacturer of high purity, premium grade Omega-3 fatty acid concentrates that are used in nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and food. Epax was part of Trygg Pharma Group AS ("Trygg Pharma"), an Omega-3 pharmaceutical company. This acquisition strengthens and expands FMC's presence in the high growth nutraceutical market.


Pectin is a key component of Cargill’s texturizing portfolio and the company is keen to further develop its offering. “We took this step so we can provide food companies around the world with a strong supply of high quality pectin available; a ‘label-friendly’ food ingredient for which we see a clear growing demand”, says Colleen May, president of Cargill’s texturizing solutions business. “With a direct access to fresh citrus peel, the facility is ideally located. It will be a perfect addition to our existing network of facilities in Europe and complement our supply chain. The Milazzo plant is a highly specialized pectin production facility located in the middle of the citrus orchards near the Tyrrhenian Sea in Sicily. Since 1990 the facility produces high quality HM (high methoxyl) pectin, running primarily on fresh peel. The site comprises fresh peel washing and drying equipment, a pectin production line, dry peel storage silos and a quality control laboratory. It is operated by an experienced team with an outstanding processing and safety record. Frank Monmont, EMEA regional director of Cargill’s texturizing solutions business explains: “This acquisition underlines our commitment to drive distinctive value for our stakeholders. We intend to further develop the relationship with the local lemon processing companies, ultimately to the benefit of our customers, who seek reliable partners to meet their growing pectin demand”.


New website dedicated to fibre fortification

Tate & Lyle announces the launch of a new website dedicated to fibre fortification: This new website serves as a resource to help food and beverage manufacturers meet increasing demand from consumers globally for fibre-enriched food by featuring nutritional information, consumer research and in-depth application insights. It also provides details of Tate & Lyle’s extensive fibre portfolio and solutions: PROMITOR® Soluble Fibre, PromOat® Beta Glucan and STA-LITE® Polydextrose. "Consumers around the world are not getting enough fibre in their diets" said Nancy Gaul, Senior Category Marketing Manager, Health and Wellness, Tate & Lyle. "This represents a major opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers to respond by providing great-tasting fibre-fortified products. Tate & Lyle has a unique range of fibres and deep formulation expertise, and we are excited to work with our customers to help them bring extraordinary products to market".


CHS acquires Northstar Agri Industries canola processing plant

CHS Inc. has announced it has acquired Northstar Agri Industries canola processing and refining plant near Hallock, Minn., from PICO Northstar Hallock LLC, a majority-owned subsidiary of PICO Holdings, Inc. The Hallock canola plant processes more than 400,000 tons of canola seed annually into canola oil and canola meal. "Acquisition of Northstar Agri Industries adds value to CHS owners across the enterprise from inputs to value-added processing ingredients to the marketplace" said Tom Malecha, CHS vice president, Processing and Food Ingredients. "Specifically, the acquisition expands our oilseed processing platform to include canola in addition to soybeans, adds to CHS presence in Canada, expands CHS oil product offerings to global food companies, and links growers purchasing canola seed from CHS-owned retail outlets to an integrated supply chain". Neil Juhnke, president, Northstar Agri Industries, said CHS was a good fit because it is a financially strong, farmer-owned cooperative with Minnesota roots that is committed to growth and profitability. "The new ownership structure adds security and many value-added opportunities for canola growers in our region" said Juhnke. The Hallock facility will be rebranded as CHS and the 57 employees at the Hallock plant will become CHS employees.



DIANA FOOD has recently extended its Health and Nutrition portfolio with three new superfruits: cherry, aronia and bilberry. These active ingredients, with a high content in anthocyanins are now included within DIANA Nutri’HealthTM offer allowing to better meet customer needs in superfruits rising trend. With a strong annual growth of superfruits and an increasing demand, DIANA FOOD has naturally extended its Health and Nutrition range with the 3 following superfruits:

• ACTIPLANTS® CHERRY - PRUNUS CERASUS EXTRACT- The first concentrated, standardized, anthocyanin-rich cherry extract in the world available for use in dietary supplements.

• ACTIPLANTS® ARONIA - ARONIA MELANOCARPA EXTRACT- Actiplants® Aronia is standardized to the content of anthocyanidins.

• ACTIPLANTS® BILBERRY - VACCINIUM MYRTILLUS EXTRACT- Actiplants® Bilberry is standardized to the content of anthocyanins or anthocyanidins.
Based from natural ingredients, DIANA FOOD provides solutions to balance nutritional profiles and to boost product formulations with health benefits. Through its Nutri’HealthTM range, DIANA FOOD offers numerous natural ingredients obtained from fruit and vegetables with intrinsic organoleptic and nutritional properties and also standardized actives ingredients with characterized health benefits to boost product formulation.



A new study carried out by Italian researchers at the Department of Surgery and Translational Medicine, University of Florence demonstrates that supplementation with Meriva®, the Indena proprietary lecithin-based delivery system of curcumin, may be effective as a complementary support in skin disorders management. In this single-dose, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study sixty-three subjects with mild-to-moderate psoriasis vulgaris (PASI <10) were randomly divided into two groups treated with topical steroids and orally with Meriva®, or with topical steroids alone, both for 12 weeks. Researchers measured the quality of life and health benefits and the effects of the treatment on the serum levels of IL-17 and IL-22 that are thought to play a major role in this disorder. Data from the study demonstrated that Meriva® may be regarded as a safe and well-tolerated supplementation for the complementary support to subjects treated with topical steroids. Among the several biological effects of curcumin, the ability to downregulate the T cell-mediated process, and in particular the Th22 pathway, may be considered one of the major mechanisms by which Meriva® supports skin dysfunction recovery.


Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts Invests to Expand Peanut Oil Production

Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts, a subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland Company have announced that it will invest to significantly expand the capacity of its peanut oil processing facility in Dawson, Georgia. “The peanut—and peanut oil—business in the U.S. is poised for growth, and we’re investing to meet our customers’ needs” said Greg Mills, president, Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts. “Consumers today are looking for cleaner labels, and peanut oil is non-GMO, non-trans fat, and—when highly refined—allergen-exempt. The U.S. is currently a net importer of peanut oil, and with the increase we’re seeing in domestic demand as well as the current strong outlook for the U.S. peanut crop, Golden is ready to meet customer needs with domestic production”. The project is targeted for completion in Q2 of 2016.



Edible coatings leader, Mantrose-Haeuser Co., Inc., has expanded its line of high performance polishes and anti-sticking coatings for the confectionery industry. Certicoat® 590 ORG is an organic certified anti-stick agent providing excellent sheen and good flowability properties required for packaging of organic fruit snacks and organic gummies. Our Certicoat products are lipid based coating systems that prevent sticking and deliver an excellent shine on starch, pectin and gelatine based gummies. Certicoat® 590 ORG is certified organic in compliance with the USDA’s National Organic Program (7 CFR 205). Crystalac® ORG is a confectionery glazing agent that contains food grade orange shellac and certified organic alcohol. It can bring a brilliant shine to both chocolate and sugar shell panned candies. Crystalac® ORG may be used on products labelled as “Organic” as prescribed by the Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI).


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