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Health Claims

Nutrient metabolism

Certain nutrients are essential for basic bodily functions, and a wide range of health claims have been authorised by the EU in this area. They include:

Health claim ‘contributes to normal…’VitaminMineralOther
Macronutrient metabolismBiotinChromium, Zinc
*Homocysteine metabolismFolate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6Betaine, Choline
Energy-yielding metabolismPantothenic acid, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin CCalcium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus
Lipid metabolismCholine
Sulphur amino acid metabolismMolybdenum
Synthesis and metabolism of steroid hormones, vitamin D and some neurotransmittersPantothenic acid
Metabolism of ironVitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin C
Protein and glycogen metabolismVitamin B6
Acid-base metabolismZinc
Carbohydrate metabolismZinc
Fatty acid metabolismZinc
Vitamin A metabolismZinc

*The homocysteine metabolism claims are of special interest as this involves the metabolism of homocysteine, seen as a marker for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, to methionine, a beneficial amino-acid. Vitamin B12 is necessary for this metabolism but is only present in animal products such as meat and milk, and is missing from strict vegetarian or vegan diets. This should be corrected by supplementation or foods fortified with vitamin B12.

Vitamin C enhances iron absorption by the body, and this is again important for vegetarians as plant iron is less absorbable than haem iron, which comes in the main from meat. Thus a vegetarian diet should include vitamin C rich foods.

The claims may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates.

Mental health

Numerous health claims have been authorised by the EU in this area. They fall into three major categories – psychological, cognitive and neurological claims. Many claims submitted for memory and its enhancement were rejected.

Health claim ‘contributes to’ Vitamin Mineral
Psychological Normal psychological function Biotin, Folate, Niacin, Vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin C Magnesium
Cognitive* Normal cognitive function Iodine, Iron, Zinc
Cognitive development in children Iron
Mental performance Pantothenic acid
Neurological Contributes to functioning of the nervous system Vitamin B12, biotin,  niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C
Copper, Iodine, Magnesium, Potassium
*A claim has also been authorised for water as it ‘contributes to physical and cognitive function’..
There also two important claims authorised for DHA (dodecahexanoic acid), a component of fish oil which can also be manufactured by fermentation. They are:-

  • ‘contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function (general population)’
  • ‘maternal intake (of DHA) contributes to normal brain development of the foetus and breastfed infants’.

A claim may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates

Immune system

The immune system is a complex collection of organs, cells and tissues that work collectively to protect the body against disease caused mostly by pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi).

Parts of the immune system include the tonsils, lymph nodes, appendix, spleen, thymus, skin and mucous membranes.

The lymph nodes in particular produce lymphocyte cells (white blood cells) whose role is to destroy invading pathogens.

Eleven claims have been authorised by the EU for contributions to the normal function of the immune system, and these are:-

Health claim Vitamin Mineral
Contributes to the normal function of the immune system Vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D Copper, Iron, Selenium, Zinc

The claim may be made for one of the nutrients or several of the nutrients.

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates.

 

Hair, nails and skin

Several claims have been authorised by the EU for vitamins and minerals that help maintain healthy hair, nails and skin. These include:

Health claim ‘contributes to the maintenance of…’VitaminMineral
Normal hairBiotinSelenium, Zinc
Normal hair pigmentation Copper
Normal skinNiacin, vitamin AIodine, Zinc
Normal skin pigmentation Copper
Normal skin and mucous membranesNiacin, vitamin B2 
Normal mucous membranesVitamin A 
Normal collagen* formation for the normal function of skinVitamin C 
Normal nails Selenium,Zinc

*Collagen is the elastic net that helps to give the skin suppleness

The claims may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates

Energy and exercise

Sports nutrition is a huge and growing market, with an array of products and ingredients authorised to claim that they boost physical performance.

Energy, which is essential for stamina, is produced by the metabolism of food by the digestive system, with several vitamins and minerals involved in the process.

A total of 20 health claims have been authorised in this area and may be summarised as:-

Health claim Vitamin Mineral Other
Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism Biotin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, vitamin B1, vitamin B2,vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C* Calcium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese*
Maintenance of endurance performance Carbohydrate/electrolyte solution
Enhances water absorption during exercise Carbohydrate/electrolyte solution
Increases physical performance in high intensity short bursts Creatine
Contributes to the maintenance of a normal immune system during/after intense exercise Vitamin C
Contributes to oxygen transport in the body Iron
*Claims may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates

 

Cellular health

Our bodies are made up of cells and it is therefore essential for cells to develop normally and remain healthy to ensure overall health.

Health claims are now authorised across the EU for nutrients which have a role in cell division and specialisation, protection of cells from oxidative stress, and normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which resides in the cell. All of the nutrients for which these health claims have been approved are either vitamins or minerals, notably:

Health claim Vitamin or mineral
Role in cell division Calcium, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, Zinc
Role in cell specialisation Calcium, vitamin A
Protects cell from oxidative stress Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, vitamin B2, Selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zinc
Formation of  red blood cells Iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6
Maintenance of normal blood cells Vitamin B2
Formation of haemoglobin Iron

A separate health claim has also been authorised for vitamin C and its role in improving iron absorption, which is important for vegetarians – as plant iron is less easy to absorb than iron from meat – and also those who may be on a low intake of meat, which is often the case in the elderly and people on special diets.

A claim may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates

Muscle & joint health

Several claims have been authorised for muscle and joint health. These include:-

Health claim – ‘contributes to…’
Normal muscle function Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, vitamin D*
Growth in muscle mass Protein
The maintenance of muscle mass Protein
The maintenance of normal connective tissue Copper
The formation of normal connective tissue Manganese
Normal sulphur amino-acid metabolism Molybdenum
*A claim may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients

Glucosamine, chondroitin and fish oils do not have claims authorised in this area but are widely used with joint health in the mind of the consumer, and may materialise in the future.

 

 

 

Nutrition claims & conditions governing their use

LOW ENERGY

ENERGY-REDUCED

ENERGY-FREE

LOW FAT

FAT-FREE

LOW SATURATED FAT

SATURATED FAT-FREE

LOW SUGAR

SUGAR-FREE

WITH NO ADDED SUGARS

LOW SODIUM/SALT

VERY LOW SODIUM/SALT

SODIUM-FREE or SALT-FREE

SOURCE OF FIBRE

HIGH FIBRE

SOURCE OF PROTEIN

HIGH PROTEIN

SOURCE OF (NAME OF VITAMIN/S) and/or (NAME OF MINERAL/S)

HIGH (NAME OF VITAMIN/S) and/or (NAME OF MINERAL/S)

CONTAINS (NAME OF THE NUTRIENT OR OTHER SUBSTANCE)

INCREASED (NAME OF THE NUTRIENT)

REDUCED (NAME OF THE NUTRIENT)

LIGHT/LITE

NATURALLY/NATURAL

SOURCE OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

HIGH OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

HIGH MONOUNSATURATED FAT

HIGH POLYUNSATURATED FAT

HIGH UNSATURATED FAT

Heart health

Plant sterols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

High levels of cholesterol are believed to be bad for the heart. Increasing numbers of people in the western world now take statin drugs to help reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in their bloodstream, as it can lead to blocked arteries Plant sterols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But a number of food ingredients are also believed to lower cholesterol levels, and thus contribute to heart health.

Plant sterols and stanols, also known as phytosterols and phytostanols, have been clinically proven to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed in the intestines. They occur naturally in several vegetable oils, notably sea buckthorn oil, corn oil and soy bean oil. These ingredients are commonly added to products such as margarines, yoghurts and breakfast cereals, and products that contain phytosterols are allowed to make this health claim:

Plant sterols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Other ingredients are also believed to have a positive impact on heart health. The omega-3 oils eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease.Other ingredients are also believed to have a positive impact on heart health. The omega-3 oils eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. They are naturally present in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and herring.

Vitamin B1 is also thought to contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system and a health claim is permitted.

Health claims have been approved by both the UK and the US authorities for soy protein and also oat beta-glucans as a way of reducing high cholesterol in patients with high blood pressure.

A claim has also been authorised for the maintenance of normal blood pressure by potassium.

In summary:-

Health claim Ingredient
Contributes to the normal function of the heart EPA and DHA, vitamin B1
Has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease Oat beta-glucan, plant sterols and plant stanol esters

Digestive health

In recent years, these probiotic-bacteria have become popular ingredients in foods designed to promote digestive health.

Foods that claim to improve digestive health are now commonplace on the supermarket shelves. In recent years, these probiotic-bacteria have become popular ingredients in foods designed to promote digestive health. These days, it’s not as simple as adding ‘fibre’ – many more exotic sounding ingredients such as resistant starch, inulin, oligosaccharides and polydextrose are used, not to mention the lactic acid bacteria that are added to yogurts and yogurt drinks.

Inulin, for example, is a carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic soluble fibre. It may help reduce the risk of some infections and relieve the symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. As a prebiotic fibre, it helps promote the growth of the ‘friendly’ bacteria that live in the intestinal tract and play an important role in the digestive process.

In recent years, probiotic bacteria have become popular ingredients in foods designed to promote digestive health. The most common of these are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. The idea is to maintain a healthy balance of these bacteria in the gut, because their numbers can be reduced by illness, stress, poor nutrition and antibiotics. Claims have been made that they can help strengthen the immune system, and reduce the impact of some diseases.

Bone and dental health

Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children.

Several vitamins and minerals are essential for our bones and teeth to grow and remain healthy. It’s crucial, for example, for children to consume sufficient calcium as it’s needed for the growth of strong, dense bones and teeth, and as we get older it’s needed to keep them that way. This is why children are encouraged to drink milk, which is a great source of calcium. It is also important in post-menopausal women, who have a high risk of developing osteoporosis. This causes bones to become brittle and prone to breaking.

Calcium is not alone in this – we also need sufficient vitamin D and  vitamin K. Vitamin D is required by the body to enable the absorption of calcium. As an example, products that contain sufficient levels of both calcium and vitamin D can carry this health claim:

Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children.

This is because it is recognised that calcium and vitamin D are both essential for the normal growth and development of bones, and some children and adolescents may not consume sufficient to ensure that their bones develop properly.

Certain minerals which are important in the maintenance of normal bones and teeth comprise magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, and claims have been authorised for use in products for the general population.

Vitamin C is also important for the formation of the elastic collagen net which forms the base upon which calcium is deposited to form bones and teeth, thus giving bones and teeth an elastic quality and  claims have been authorised for this.

The claims can be summarised as below:

Health Claim Nutrient
Maintenance of normal bones Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin K, Zinc
Maintenance of normal teeth Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, vitamin D
Maintenance of normal collagen formation for the normal function of bones Vitamin C
Maintenance of normal collagen formation for the normal function of teeth Vitamin C
Needed for the growth and development of bone in children Calcium, vitamin D, Phosphorus, Protein

The claims may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

 

 

 

 

Blood sugar control

Fiberous carbohydrates are digested slowly.

We get the energy we need from the food we eat. Much of the energy comes in the form of carbohydrates, and if these are rapidly digested the energy is quickly taken up by the body. Such rapidly digested carbohydrates are termed ‘high glycaemic’, as they give a rapid, high peak of blood sugar. But there is a problem here – blood sugar levels rapidly ‘crash’ because of the insulin the body produces to transport the sugar from the blood into the cells. Low blood glucose leads to a lack of alertness and even drowsiness, so if these extreme highs and lows of blood sugar can be levelled out, the body will better use the energy available.

Part of the answer comes in carbohydrates that are digested much more slowly, such as resistant starches, beta-glucan, pectin and sugar replacers. Unlike easily digestible carbohydrates such as simple sugars, these more complex carbohdrates pass through the small intestine unchanged and are digested more slowly in the large intestine where they provide a slower supply of energy, reducing the energy spike.

Blood sugar claims

Health claimFunctional ingredient
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Aribinoxylin from wheat germ
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Beta-glucan from oats and barley
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Pectins
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Sugar replacers – ie
Intense sweeteners, eg sucralose; xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol, and polydextrose; D-tagatose and isomaltulose