Thursday, January 12, 2012


Probiotics and Omega-3 fatty acids are currently the hot favorites of health food industry and during the last few years several products have been launched containing one of these nutrient ingredients. While probiotics are invariably added to yogurt type of products, Omega-3 oils are used to fortify juices and other processed foods. Probiotics are basically Lactobacillus cultures which are stabilized before incorporation and act in the intestine once ingested enriching the gut microbial colony for imparting some of the beneficial attributes associated with them. However the major constraint with such products is their limited shelf life. Similarly Omega-3 oils, mostly derived from some fish varieties, do have trace aroma of fish still lingering, deterring its use by consumers averse to fish. New technology now being developed in Australia attempts to overcome the above problems and open up vast opportunities to the industry to turn out increasing varieties of food containing these nutrients with no adverse effect on the native texture or aroma. Here is a take on this latest innovation. 

"Adding probiotics to manufactured dairy and juice products can improve digestion and general gut health, and boost the immune system. However, such products are not currently possible, as milk and juice products with probiotics go sour within days. "And even though existing food products fortified with fish-based omega-3 oils only have small amounts added, a residual smell and taste is common. "The key advantage of Progel ingredients is that they don't affect the quality, texture, taste or smell of the product, and products containing Progel encapsulated actives may provide sufficient levels of active nutrients to provide a beneficial source of probiotics and omega-3 to consumers," Professor Bhandari said. "Probiotic and omega-3 juice products made possible by the Progel technology also include calcium, so they would offer many of the health benefits of calcium, probiotics and omega-3 to consumers who do not regularly consume milk and yogurt or oily fish." 

It is true that there are serious questions regarding the true health benefits of preparations containing probiotics in yogurts and almost all claims have been rejected by the EU authorities for lack of adequate scientific evidence. Similarly inclusion of Omega-3 oils in processed foods may raise some issues regarding its necessity and efficacy. More than the actual content of Omega-3 fatty acids, there is some evidence that it is the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids that is more crucial than the absolute content of either of them. The stand that those who do not take yogurt or fish are prone to serious diseases is based on faulty premise as there are millions of consumers who do not consume either of them and still live without any health handicaps. But in the relentless pursuit of "value addition" in food processing, it may be important for the industry to come up with such products which may help their bottom line. Probably these fortified products might be more beneficial to those consumers suffering from deficiency diseases rather than normal ones consuming a mixed diet.


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