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05/19/2006

Grapefruit Promotes Weight Loss, Combats Metabolic Syndrome
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Copyright © 2006 by Virgo Publishing.
Posted : 02/06/2006

Functional Living Through Enzymes
by Somlynn Rorie

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”—Hippocrates

A conventional diet consisting of few fruits and vegetables, an overabundance of refined carbohydrates and overcooked or processed food can wreak havoc and deplete the body of vital nutrients and enzymes. This kind of consumption and lifestyle also puts an unusual strain on the digestive system, resulting in partial digestion of food and malabsorption of nutrients, which can cause an array of common digestive problems or more serious conditions such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux. Enzyme supplementation can improve the digestion of food, reduce stress in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, help maintain normal pH levels and promote the growth of intestinal flora. When added to food or beverage products, enzymes assist the digestive system by breaking down proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

As early as 1984, the term kinsei-shokuhin or “functional food” was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Education Science and Culture as it began to recognize the health problems associated with an aging population. A report called “Functional Foods and FOSHU Japan 2004, Market & Product Report” found that functional foods dominated the Japanese marketplace. From 1995 to 2003, the average annual growth rate for functional foods was 11.9 percent, while the growth rate for dietary supplements rose 7.5 percent. According to Aroq Ltd’s report, “Global Market Review of Functional Foods—Forecast to 2010”, functional food products will continue to make a presence in the global mainstream marketplace and will experience an average global growth rate of up to 14 percent through 2010.

“As our society continues to age, we are going to see more enzyme combinations in functional foods that address a larger range of specific dietary products with some products containing active enzymes and others modified using enzymes,” said Peter Moodie, sales director with New York-based Enzyme Development Corp. “Enzymes are a critical part of the food processing industry, and the move toward having active enzymes within food products will continue to grow.”

Advances in science and food technology, increasing health care costs, changes in food laws, media attention on label and product claims, as well as a rising interest in attaining improved health through diet are some of the factors leading consumers to functional foods. The principal areas currently targeted by functional food manufacturers include heart health through cholesterol-lowering products and bone maintenance through products containing extra calcium and minerals. Other areas of interest include strengthening the immune system and balancing the digestive system by consuming products with vitamins, minerals and infused enzymes. In addition, research has demonstrated the useful effects of incorporating functional foods with added enzymes into one’s diet to aid in treating digestive maladies, GI diseases and cardiovascular problems.

Aggressive marketing campaigns and increased availability of functional foods and dietary supplements have also helped cast a spotlight on the role of enzymes as preventive medicine. While most of the general public is not educated on the benefits of enzyme supplements, many who suffer from lactose-intolerance or other common digestive ailments have found improvements by using enzymes. New products are enticing consumers to research and discuss the possibilities of enzyme supplementation. The latest combination enzyme supplements focus on anti-inflammatory, sports and targeted digestive problems. “As we better understand the body’s subsystems such as inflammatory cascade, glycemic response or arterial disease, I see functional foods being enzymatically tailored during processing to address specific health concerns,” said Phil Ronsivalli, sales manager of Kennesaw, Ga.-based Deerland Enzymes.

Enzymes are present in every cell of every living entity.They aid in food digestion, energy production, tissue and organ repair, toxic waste removal. Approximately 22 digestive enzymes exist within the human body and are capable of digesting protein, carbohydrates, sugars and fats. Their ultimate function is to catalyze chemical reactions within the cells so that physiological processes can occur. The process of digestion begins in the mouth, makes its way to the stomach and concludes in the small intestine. During this process, a group of digestive enzymes called hydrolases break down specific types of food. Protease enzymes, for example, not only digest protein from food but also organisms that cause certain viruses and toxic bacteria. Amylase proteins break down carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose and fructose. Lipase proteins digest fats and lipids. And cellulose proteins help with cellulose disintegration. Another group called metabolic enzymes speed up chemical reactions within cells for detoxification and energy production. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is an antioxidant that protects cells from a common free radical; and catalase breaks down hydrogen peroxide, a waste product caused from metabolism, and frees oxygen for use by the body.

Selecting Enzymes for Processing

“Food processing is a great candidate for enzymes, since enzymes will help break down molecules that can be more readily absorbed by the human body,” said Tony Reinsch from American Laboratories Inc., located in Omaha, Neb. “Enzymes hydrolyze proteins for improved protein digestion, assist with fat breakdown and the breakdown of sugars and carbohydrates.”

The concept of enzymatically tailoring food during processing to address specific health concerns is a fairly new concept in food production. Products such as margarine, fruit juices, health bars, beverages, dried goods and candy can function as delivery systems for active enzymes. Other products such as a light beer add enzymes to reduce the caloric content, and dairy products treated with lactase provide comfort to an individual who wants to consume the product but is lactose intolerant. “Currently, many food products could benefit from the indirect or direct addition of enzymes,” Ronsivalli said. “Products containing difficult-to-digest components could be pretreated for easier digestion or to remove these components.”

Among the potential problems that food manufacturers face when creating new products is the presence of undesirable characteristics such as flavor and odor. Enzymes can be used to adjust taste, viscosity, color and texture. “One of the great things about enzymes is their specificity,” Ronsivalli added. “A manufacturer may be able to achieve a desired function with specific enzymes or enzyme blends without adversely affecting the product.”

In the past 35 years, the use of commercial enzymes has grown from an insignificant role in the food industry to a critical aspect of food processing. Many food applications use enzymes for baking, brewing, distilling, cheese-making and dairy products, flavor systems, fruit juice processing, syrup and starch systems. In fact, all corn syrup is produced enzymatically and most sweetness comes from enzyme modification.

Factors such as pH, temperature, diluents, additives and the physical/chemical and/or physiological conditions of the application determine an enzyme’s efficacy. “Since enzymes are proteins they are subject to denaturization,” Moodie said. “It’s much like the difference between an egg white versus a cooked egg.They are still proteins; but the cooked egg is denatured, and the liquid egg has not been subjected to heat.”

Amalase, protease and lipases are the primary enzymes used in the food industry; however, selecting an enzyme for use in a food product can become rather complicated. A manufacturer must determine which enzymes could be most beneficial to the food product the company is attempting to create. If, for example, a manufacturer wants to produce a product that is vegan-, kosher- or halal-friendly, an enzyme sourced from animal tissue such as rennet cannot be used. Instead, a microbially-formed enzyme such as chymosin could be substituted.

All enzymes used for food products or supplements are sourced from animal tissue, plants or microorganisms such as fungi or bacteria. Plant enzymes are derived from a variety of plant sources and are most effective when addressing a broad pH range. Animal enzymes such as pancreatic enzymes, trypsin and rennet have a limited pH range, are specific in action and can have a delayed effect. Fungal and bacteria enzymes work in a broad pH range and are extracted from microorganisms through fermentation. This flexibility allows microbial enzymes to function better throughout the GI tract. This makes them particularly suitable for digestive supplements and when enzymes are added to help digest the nutrient components in a food product to ensure a more complete breakdown.

Each enzyme possesses a unique breakdown mechanism that can help manufacturers determine what type of enzyme is appropriate for a particular type of product or process. Reinsch noted certain enzymes will cleave a molecule at a different molecular bonding site. For instance, endo-enzymes cleave the molecular bonds in the center of the molecule, whereas exo-enzymes will slice molecular bonds along the outer region of the molecule.

Part of the quandary for many functional food manufacturers is how to keep the enzyme stable without the food product deteriorating the enzyme. Products requiring a long shelf-life like canned or bottled goods can potentially neutralize the active enzyme, or the enzyme itself can create a rancid environment. Low moisture foods have an easier time retaining enzymatic function without product degradation. Scott Daniel Davenport, marketing and communications manager with Forsyth, Mo.-based National Enzyme Co., said: “Enzymes are activated by moisture; therefore, the taste, texture and appearance of some beverages and functional foods would be affected by the addition of enzymes unless they were protected from moisture activation in storage, but in such a way that they regain their activity when ingested.”

By working alongside an enzyme supplier, manufacturers can determine what processes will work best when dealing with product formulation, shelf life and delivery system. For example, entericcoating or micro-encapsulation, which is ideal for dietary supplements composed of dry ingredients, allows the enzyme to pass through stomach acids to be broken down more readily in the intestines and the pancreas. Another innovative process was created by the Israeli-based biotech firm Enzymotec, which developed an enzyme technology to improve targeted delivery of nutrients in oils to human organs. The technology allows lipase, which breaks down lipids, to reach the second position of triglycerides—making it easier for manufacturers get the nutritional or therapeutic benefits of lipase.

Manufacturers need to know their supplier’s capabilities and reputation, Reinsch noted. Is the enzyme supplier a manufacturer or a distributor? A manufacturer or supplement buyer should talk with the supplier to determine what processes and parameters could be used and where enzymes would be most efficacious. Also, a manufacturer should find out who is generating the certificate of analysis that is meaningful to their enzyme application. Is the certificate of analysis and the number initiated by the company they are purchasing from, or was the certificate generated by their raw material supplier or lab? “If they are using an outside lab or if the number is generated by someone else, that company needs to be very upfront about saying we did not generate this number,” Moodie said.

Enzyme buyers should familiarize themselves with current assay standards (FCC, FIP and USP) for enzymatic activity. This understanding is critical to making an informed decision when comparing offerings from other enzyme suppliers. When published assay methods are not available, correlation between suppliers’ products can only be made using side-by-side analysis. “Assay results for enzymes should meet or exceed manufacturer claims, and assay methods should either be from approved published compendia or should be made available by the supplier,” Ronsivalli said. Additionally, there are no RDIs for enzymes and the declaration of enzyme activity varies widely. Unlike vitamins, enzymes cannot be labeled by quantity or weight and must be measured by potency—assaying the quantity of hydrolysis that occurs under specific conditions. Buyers should be attentive to the way in which the individual enzymes are listed. “Most animal, and many plant and microbial, enzymes are listed by weight, which is really not a good indicator of activity and beneficial functioning of the enzymes,” Davenport said. “There are also many activity measurements that will list large numbers, but are not necessarily indicative of the ability of the enzyme to perform its function in the body.”

Clinical studies are another reference that enzyme buyers can turn to when deciding from whom they should buy and what enzymes will serve their purpose most efficaciously. “Manufacturers looking at an enzyme product must understand the potential functionality the enzymes and then test them,” said Rodger Rohde, Jr., president of Triarco Industries in Wayne, N.J. “Many tests can be done in a lab or serve as bio-assays but ultimately these are just pre-qualifiers of completing the final process, which is a clinical study.” The company makes large investments in providing clinical studies of their products. For example, two in vitro studies have already been conducted on its Aminogen® product, a naturally derived patented plant enzyme that helps the body liberate free-form amino acids from food protein. Rohde said the point of conducting studies on the specific ingredient is to provide consumers and enzyme buyers the satisfaction of knowing that the product they are purchasing has been proven to work. He asked, “If you were a consumer, would you take choose to take a product based on hope or proven results?”

Manufacturers can further help consumers select the right product by informing them of what to look for on labels. “When looking at enzymes and their activity levels, a consumer should follow the labels and make sure they understand the unit of potencies,” Reinsch said. “A manufacturer needs to cover the basics. Does the product inform the consumer of the common name of the enzyme? Does the enzyme have a specific commonly known potency per gram or milligram? Does the product inform the consumer of the number of milligrams of each enzyme in the tablet? If each of these questions is answered, it will be much easier for consumers to compare the potency and quality of a finished product.”

Somlynn Rorie is a Phoenix-based journalist and former associate editor for INSIDER.

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