Hylobates presents the PlantLIBRA Project in the journal Food & Function

Authors from Hylobates and the University of Milan explain the goals of the EC-funded project PlantLIBRA in the recently published online paper of the journal Food & Function: “The PlantLIBRA Project: how we intend to innovate the science of botanicals” by Luca Bucchini, Alejandro Rodarte and Patrizia Restani

The paper presents the consortium’s plan for improving the science of botanicals and risk and benefit assessment methodologies for plant food supplements (PFS). In this 4 year project, partners are working to expand and generate knowledge on PFS through systematic reviews, intake surveys, new studies on benefits, risks and new analytical findings to ultimately ensure a safer use of PFS by consumers. By doing so, they plan to address data, methodology and consensus gaps in cooperation with different stakeholders and decision makers in the PFS sector.

– Alejandro Rodarte  –

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Demographic characteristics play a role in consumers trust in the food supply chain

Nowadays consumers are more and more interested in food safety and quality. These two factors influence the overall trust consumers have in the food supply chain, in the sense that to trust a food, consumers want it to be not only safe but also of good quality and this applies to all the steps of the food chain, from production to consumption.

A recent study we have looked at has investigated if demographic differences might exist with regard to the level of consumers trust in the food supply chain, considering a range of safety and quality variables. A telephone survey was conducted on a random sample of the Australian population aged 18+ years, with more than 1000 thousands interviews done. From the results some demographic differences emerged in relation to how much attention consumers pay to safety and quality: females, older persons and lower income groups were most concerned.

The results of this study  are relevant to our research investigating – within FoodRisC as well – of how consumers perceive communication of food risks, on gaps or barriers to communication and on common tools for a more effective communication on food. In fact, by knowing the demographic characteristics behind the importance placed on a certain food issue, an appropriate targeted communication campaign might be developed to increase consumer trust. This might be one potential tool to increase effectiveness of communication on food issues.”

Antonella Guzzon – Research Team

Food additives: EC adopts a new Regulation

The European Commission has  adopted a new Regulation, implementing Regulation EC 1333/2008. The new Regulation includes list of food additives intended for foodstuffs and food ingredients. The lists will replace lists under  Directives 95/2/CE, 94/36/CE and 94/35/CE in 2013.

The Regulation also foresees that anti-caking agent silicon dioxide can be used for salt substitutes at higher levels and that the coating agent basic metacrilate can be used for food supplements. These specific rules will come into force 20 days after the publication of the present regulation, on December 2 2012; the general list apply on 1 June 2013. Products legally marketed before 1 June 2013 can continue to be sold.

It is interesting to note that the list is divided into categories for different foodstuffs. The category for food supplements is number 17 (solid form such as capsules and tablets, liquid form, syrup or chewable). It is noteworthy that category 13 is food with particular nutritional purposes; foods for sportsmen are not included, further confirmation of the upcoming abolition of this category (if not abolished, theoretically from June 1  2013, no additives would be allowed in foods for sportsmen, as well as in other dietetic foods for which specific rules have not been set).

Armando Antonelli- Sport Nutrition Team

Stevia rebaudiana’s steviol glycosides: approved on 12 November by EC

After a long wait we can finally announce that Stevia rebaudiana and its steviol glycosides are approved in European Countries.

This regulation permitting the sale and the use of this natural sweetener was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 12 November The legislation will enter into force on December 2, allowing formulations and sale of products with steviol glycosides.

The upper level permitted in food supplements will be 670 mg/Kg (solid form), 200 mg/l (liquid form) and 1800 mg/Kg (syrup-type or chewable form). The first rollout of this kind of products in shops will be from the first quarter of 2012, but some may be faster.

We think that the approval of Stevia is a very important for food in general, but concerning  food supplements and food for sportsmen, it is a real milestone. Just think the use of sweeteners in these products, and the increased sweetening power than sugar and consequent reduction of calories up to 50-100%.

We also think that countries where naturalness is particularly appreciated will be particularly receptive, as a natural alternative to aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K becomes available.

Jacopo Angelucci – Sport Nutrition Team

The effects of low and high glycaemic carbohydrates on endurance performance

The concept of glycaemic index (GI) was originally introduced to classify carbohydrate-rich foods, usually having an energy content of >80 % from carbohydrates, according to the differences in effects on post-meal glycaemia. The GI, which is a nutritional property of a carbohydrate-rich food, is defined as the incremental area under the blood glucose response curve following a 50 g glycaemic carbohydrate portion of a test food expressed as a percent of the response to the same amount of carbohydrates from a standard reference product taken by the same subject (FAO/WHO, 1998).

Carbohydrate-rich foods can be classified according to their GI values (glucose as the standard): high GI >70 (white bread, most white rices, corn flakes, extruded breakfast cereals, glucose); normal GI 55-70 (whole wheat products, basmati rice, sweet potato, sucrose); low GI 40-55 (most fruits and vegetables, legumes/pulses, whole grains, nuts, fructose) and very low <40.

On the other hand, is not easy to outline glycaemic index of foods rich in carbohydrates because many other factors in the diet (e.g. amount and type of dietary fibre, amount of dietary fat, energy density, physical properties, mode of preparation) are involved.

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) expressed its negative opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to carbohydrates that induce low/reduced glycaemic responses and carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index. The claims effect was related to carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) and Impact on blood glucose / Glycaemic control / Glycaemic response or to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The main cause of rejection of these claims was that the food constituents, carbohydrates that induce a low/reduced glycaemic response and carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (e.g. <55), which are the subject of the health claims are not sufficiently characterised. On the other hand, there are also positive opinions concerning natural and artificial sugar replacers such as xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt and sucralose for which EFSA approved the claims related to consumption of these substances and reduction of post-prandial glycaemic responses, furthermore the same opinions have been given for slowly digestible starch in starch-containing foods, beta-glucans from oats and barley and others.

Concerning this topic a recent human trial study has highlighted effects relevant to sportsmen. The study involved 10 well trained cyclists to investigate the effects of high and low glycaemic index (GI) 24 h recovery meals on the physiological responses and subsequent athletic performance, following a glycogen depleting protocol.

On day 1, subjects performed a glycogen depleting protocol after which they then consumed either high or low GI recovery diets over the next 24 h, which provided 8 g.kg BWˉ¹ of carbohydrate. On day 2, the subjects returned to the laboratory, 2-3 h postprandial, to perform a 40 km time trial (TT) on the Velotron cyclePro© ergometer. The results showed no significant differences between the two groups of subjects with respect to both physiological parameters (carbohydrate, fat oxidation and blood glucose concentration) and related to endurance performance.

The study suggests that type of carbohydrate intake (low GI or high GI carbohydrate) does not affect performance. This calls into question some long-standing formulation principles, and requires further research. The available evidence strongly supports carbohydrate intake in the context of sports; the final word on the use of low GI carbohydrates over high GI carbohydrates had not been said, and high GI carbohydrates still have a place.

Jacopo Angelucci – Sport nutrition Team

Leucine plays a key-role in protein synthesis during moderate steady state exercises

Leucine is one of the essential amino acids (EAA) and belongs to the group of BCAAs (branched chained amino acids), the only ones (together with Isoleucine and Valine) that are not degraded in the liver. BCAAs are found mainly in the skeletal muscle and offer an important contribution to the muscle building. Studies suggest that leucine offers the greatest contribution to the energy production at muscular level, slowing the degradation of the tissue by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. In fact, through the insulin-pathway signaling, leucine seems able to trigger muscle anabolic process.

Nevertheless, EFSA‘s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) published a scientific opinion regarding BCAAs, providing a negative opinion related to the proposed claims, such as ‘Growth or maintenance of muscle mass’, ‘Faster recovery from muscle fatigue after exercise’ and ‘Reduction in perceived exertion during exercise’, noting that there was no proof of benefit over that of all aminoacids as protein building blocks. Some countries, however, are still allowing claims to be made on leucine and BCAAs.

A recent study was performed in the US to evaluate how supplementation with essential amino acids containing two different amounts of leucine can influence post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. Eight adults drank two amino acid based beverage containing respectively 1.87 g and 3.5 g of leucine during their physical exercises. Muscle protein synthesis was determined by using two stable carbon and hydrogen isotopes as marker. Results showed that muscle protein synthesis was 33 % greater (P < 0.05, then statistically significant) after drinking the leucine-enriched beverage, than after consumption of non-enriched one. This trial suggests that ‘increasing the concentration of leucine in an EAA supplement consumed during steady state exercise elicits a greater MPS response during recovery’. It should be noted however that EFSA has indicated that the markers used are not adequate, as positive effects on muscle mass should be proved via actual measurements of mass, not through markers of degradation or synthesis.

The study supports higher ratios of leucine in BCAA supplements, or increasing the leucine content of supplements and other foods for sportsmen.

Given EFSA’s negative opinion, claims on the effect of BCAAs on muscle protein synthesis (which EFSA said is not a benfit per se) rest on shaky ground. It’s just possible, and only for now, to claim BCAAs effects allowed at national level (e.g. for Italy: ‘trophism and muscle recovery’); this must be checked country by country.

Armando Antonelli – Sport Nutrition Team

Synephrine, octopamine: limits, doping and natural sourcing

According to Nutraingredients USA, Health Canada is going to revise its 2011 p-synephrine guideline increasing the daily amount “‘likely to cause any adverse health consequences’ from 30 mg per day to 50 mg per day. The 30 mg maximum allowable dose applied to the sum of p-synephrine and octopamine. Sources of the substance included Citrus species such as C. aurantium, as well as certain species of some other genera (e.g. Evodia rutaecarpa), and synthetic sources. A number of warnings and other conditions of use were identified by the 2011 guidelines.

A sample of similar EU guidelines indicates that Italy has a limit for synephrine, irregardless of chirality but requiring natural origin and sourcing from C. aurantium subps. amara, of 30 mg per day, and a mandatory warning measure has not been approved at EU level). UK’s MHRA states that synephrine is to be considered medicinal , and thus not allowed in supplements, though naturally present synephrine appears to be allowed in food supplements in the UK and elsewhere.

Synephrine is of particular interest (and concern) to segments of the sports nutrition and food supplement industry as it can be sourced naturally, though it also appears in the WADA list of doping substances. As a consequence, athletes cannot ingest products with synephrine and it has to be determined at country level whether  C. aurantium subps. amara with synephrine content are permitted under national law and practices. Warnings may be considered, again at national level, to inform athletes.

A similar situation occurs with octopamine, though allowed levels have not been set in most countries and it appears to be naturally present in very low levels.

More generally, in the EU context, the natural source of the extracts is of particular relevance, with synthetic versions normally clashing with the Novel Foods Regulation; this applies to extracts not only synephrine and octopamine, that are regulated under doping (if it exists) or medicinal legislation, but to dozens of other molecules. It is increasingly reported that substances presented as natural are in fact of synthetic origin, either because the substance is truly absent in the plant (an apparent case of scientific and technical fraud), because it is available in nature but in minute quantities, or because of costs. Companies should be aware of the difference betwen natural and synthetic, ensure that they have the skill to evaluate and test their supply, and recognize that analytical methods to discriminate between natural and synthetic are increasingly reliable and available to enforcement bodies.

– Sports Nutrition Team –

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