In many regions of the world, the food industry is currently following similar trends: rising affluence, changing demographics and growing health awareness among consumers are increasing the demand for natural products and ingredients.
At the same time, consumers are more frequently opting for dietary supplements or food products with additional benefits, so-called functional foods, to enhance their wellbeing.
Plant Secondary Metabolites
One of the current consumer trends for the food industry are eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables for the plant secondary metabolites, especially those found in bell peppers, olives and the like for health benefits. These protect against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, strengthen immune system response, and inhibit inflammatory processes, to name just a few.
Particularly, these plant secondary metabolites refer to polyphenols. Phenols and polyphenols are aromatic compounds present as bioactive substances in plants, where they produce colour or flavour, or act as an antioxidant.
Antioxidants are especially popular among dietary supplements; as free-radical scavengers, antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which is associated with a number of diseases and ageing.
Highly Effective Antioxidant
Katherine Martinelli, New York, US
Though antioxidants are present in many plants, not all of these exhibit the same levels of activity; hydroxytyrosol is thus important.
Usually found in olives and olive leaves, hydroxytyrosol is an amphiphilic molecule, which means it is both water and fat soluble. It is quite stable regarding heat and neutral or alkaline pH values, has a slightly bitter taste and tends to brown.
Its unusually powerful antioxidant properties are what make hydroxytyrosol such an interesting plant secondary metabolite for use in foods and cosmetics.
Hydroxytyrosol has an exceptional ability to capture free radicals that damage our cells–nearly ten times that of green tea and over twice as high as that of coenzyme Q10. It thus can protect human cells and blood lipids from oxidative stress–a key factor influencing the development of cardiovascular diseases.
It can also strengthen immune system response, lower blood pressure, inhibit inflammatory processes, and exert a positive effect on the bones and joints.
However, putting hydroxytyrosol into dietary supplements is no easy task. Extracting the active agent from olives and olive leaves through the conventional way is complex and both labour- and cost-intensive. It would require many steps such as washing, smashing, pressing, centrifuging and drying of the olives or olive leaves. Further, often, the end product of olive extract would be a blend of a wide range of polyphenols rather than pure hydroxytyrosol; the content of the active ingredient would be less than 20 percent.
Also, supply is quite unreliable as olive harvests are subject to weather and climate conditions, and seasonal fluctuations, thus impacting the price of these valuable extracts.
As such, use of hydroxytyrosol in food solutions was, until recently, limited. However with the many promising benefits of the active agent, demand is on the rise and the industry is eager to find a method to satisfy the growing market in large enough amounts and at high levels of purity.
The Solution – Fully Synthesise Product
Research has found a way to fully synthesise the compound in a novel, simplified production process. The new product features a markedly higher purity with a defined, high and consistent amount of active ingredient.
A synthesised product of quality and complying with HACCP regulations, the product that comes as a white, odourless powder is free of allergens and pesticides and is microbiologically safe.
This synthesised route further ensures supply security independent of weather or climate, and allows the compound to be produced on a large scale.
Pure hydroxytyrosol can be used in a range of scientific examinations to prove the positive effects of the substance on human health such as protection of blood lipids and high antioxidant capacity. In view of this, and the universal solubility it offers, it can be used in a variety of functional foods and dietary supplements that are oil- or water-based formulations, dry applications, or in compact forms like tablets or capsules.
In addition, with cost pressures high in the food industry, this nature-identical hydroxytyrosol can offer a cost-effective, high quality alternative for manufacturers of functional foods and dietary supplements.