Linda Ohr

Linda Milo Ohr

An estimated 35 million people, or 13% of today’s population, are age 65 and older. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Age Related Statistics, 20% of Americans, or 70 million, will have passed their 65th birthday by 2030.

While many of today’s functional food products target specific segments of the population, the market for older adults has yet to be tapped. With the number of older people in the U.S. having increased ten-fold since 1900, this generation provides a unique opportunity for nutraceutical manufacturers.

Research has shown that older adults have specialized requirements for a variety of nutrients because of aging effects on absorption, utilization, and excretion. According to the American Dietetic Association, older adults require greater intakes than those recommended in the 1989 recommended dietary allowances for folic acid and vitamins B-6 and B-12 to prevent some decline in cognitive function associated with aging and to reduce risk for coronary artery disease. In addition, lower blood levels of vitamin B-12 and folate may be attributable to age-related hearing loss. Another example is the increased calcium need to reduce risk for osteoporosis (ADA, 2000).

Recent research has also pointed to other age-related disorders and potential preventative nutrients. These include vitamin E and memory, antioxidants and eye health, and gelatin and arthritis.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory
Alzheimer’s disease strikes one in 10 people over age 65, and almost half of those over 85, according to the Alliance for Aging Research. This degenerative brain disease currently affects some 4 million Americans, but experts predict that number could grow to 14 million in the next 50 years unless a cure or preventive treatment is found. Studies have implicated vitamin E and various antioxidants in preventing Alzheimer’s disease or improving memory in the aging population.

• Vitamin E. Vitamin E intake, either in supplements or foods, was shown to reduce memory loss caused by normal aging in a study at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, Ill. (Morris, 2002). Medical researchers studied 2,889 people between the ages of 65 and 102. Each was given an initial battery of mental function tests and followed for an average of three years, during which they were retested two or three times. The test subjects also filled out food questionnaires assessing how much of various nutrients they received in their diets and from supplements.

Results showed that those who took the largest amount of vitamin E, consuming about 258 mg per day, demonstrated 36% less memory loss than the test patients who took the least amount of vitamin E, only 4.5 mg daily. And those with the highest intake of vitamin E in food had a 32% reduction in their rate of mental decline, compared to those with the least vitamin E in their diets.

For those who took vitamin E supplements, the effect on mental skill was only seen among those who received little vitamin E from their diet, but not in those who already received lots of the vitamin in their diet. “There may be a ceiling effect, and if you taking more, it’s not helpful,” noted Martha Clare Morris, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.

--- PAGE BREAK ---

• Fruits and vegetables. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were shown to potentially protect the brain against the ravages of time in two recent animal studies conducted at the University of South Florida (USF) Center for Aging and Brain Repair and the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

In one study, older rats fed a diet rich in spinach for six weeks showed a reversal in the normal loss of learning that occurs with age (Cartford et al., 2002). The rats that ate food containing 2% freeze-dried spinach learned to associate the sound of a bell tone with a subsequent puff of air faster than those fed regular rat food. The test measured how quickly the rats learned to blink after hearing the tone, in anticipation of the oncoming puff of air—a conditioned response shown to slow with age in rodents and humans.

The second study found that the benefit of a diet high in fruit and vegetables depends on the levels of antioxidant nutrients in the fruits and vegetables (Gemma et al., 2002). USF researchers also suggested that the protective effect of antioxidants might be linked to their ability to reverse age-related accumulations of potentially harmful inflammatory substances in the brain.

The USF researchers compared three groups of older rats. One group ate a diet supplemented by spirulina, a blue-green algae high in antioxidant activity. The second group was fed a daily ration of apple, a food moderate in antioxidant activity, with their rat food. The third group ate a cucumber-enriched diet, low in antioxidant activity.

Aged rats fed either spirulina- or apple-enriched diets for two weeks demonstrated improved neuron function, a suppression of inflammatory substances in the brain, and a decrease in malondialdehyde, a marker for oxidative damage. In addition, spirulina reversed the impairment in adrenergic neural function normally associated with aging. There was no improvement in rats fed a diet supplemented with cucumber.

“If these pre-clinical findings translate to humans, it suggests that eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables may help reverse declines in learning and memory as you get older,” said Paula Bickford, lead author of both studies and Professor at the USF Center for Aging and Brain Repair.

At the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in November 2002, Gemma Casadesus, a graduate research associate working with James A. Joseph, head of the Neuroscience Laboratory of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, presented their work with blueberries, which are rich in anthocyanins. Their rat study, funded by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service, showed that compounds in blueberries had reversed existing short-term memory losses.

The researchers found an increased birth rate of brain cells in the hippocampus—a brain region responsible for memory—in aged rats fed blueberry supplementation equal to one cup daily in humans for two months, when compared to non-supplemented rats.

The hippocampus is one of the few areas in the brain that continuously replace neurons. Moreover, these changes were associated with improved memory performance in the blueberry-supplemented rats.

--- PAGE BREAK ---

Eye Health
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts are two eye disorders associated with aging. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over age 65 in the U.S. While no one knows for certain how many people are affected by AMD, some sources estimate as many as 13 million people in the U.S. age 40 and older have signs of macular degeneration, and more than 1.2 million have the later, vision-threatening stages of the disease, according to the Alliance for Aging Research. Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, are two antioxidants that have potential beneficial effects on eye health.

• Lutein. Research at the Dept. of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Moran Eye Center, University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City indicated that low levels of lutein may contribute to AMD (Bernstein et al., 2002). The research also showed that AMD patients who had begun taking high-dose lutein supplements (4 mg or more per day) regularly after their initial diagnosis of AMD were able return those levels back to normal. The research, led by Paul S. Bernstein, Associate Professor, was supported by The National Eye Institute, Spectrotek LC, and Kemin Foods L.C.

Bernstein measured macular carotenoid levels in 93 eyes from 63 patients with AMD and in 220 normal eyes from 138 volunteers. The researchers found that macular carotenoid levels decline with age, reaching a stable low level after age 60, the age when AMD incidence begins to rise dramatically. They also found that macular pigment levels in the eyes of AMD patients not consuming high-dose lutein supplements were 32% lower than elderly normal eyes.

“This research is a major step toward large-scale clinical studies to prove the extent to which lutein and zeaxanthin protect against age-related macular degeneration,” Bernstein said. “As a safeguard, patients at risk for visual loss from AMD should consider supplementing their diets with at least 4 mg of lutein each day along with other antioxidant nutrients.”

• Zeaxanthin. Research at Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston, Ma., and Dept. of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, showed that dietary zeaxanthin plays a role in protecting the retina from the damaging effects of light. The concentration of zeaxanthin and lutein are high in the macula, the retinal region responsible for fine visual activities. These two carotenoids absorb blue light and it is hypothesized that they protect the retina from light damage.

According to the researchers, macular pigment is a possible risk factor in AMD. Significantly lower macular pigment levels have been found in people with factors known to increase risk for AMD (e.g., smoking), in eyes with AMD, and in eyes at high risk for AMD. Epidemiologic studies have shown that people with higher dietary or plasma lutein/zeaxanthin have reduced risk for advanced stages of AMD.

The research team used Japanese quail because the retina resembles the human macula in having more cone photoreceptors than rods, and in highly selective accumulation of zeaxanthin and lutein from their diet. They raised quail on diets that were normal, carotenoid-deficient, or carotenoid-deficient supplemented with high doses of zeaxanthin. The studies, one short-term and one long-term, examined the effect of dietary carotenoids on light damage to retinas.

--- PAGE BREAK ---

In the short-term study, the research team divided the carotenoid-deficient quail into two groups, and for one week preceding light damage, they fed one group a zeaxanthin-supplemented diet (Thomson et al., 2002a). Retinas with low concentrations of zeaxanthin had suffered severe light damage, as evidenced by a very high number of apoptotic photoreceptor cells, while the group with high zeaxanthin concentrations had minimal damage. Apoptosis is programmed cell death, the final common pathway for photoreceptor death in retinal degeneration.

In the long-term study, researchers raised groups of quail for six months on carotenoid-deficient, normal, or zeaxanthin-supplemented diets before exposure to brighter light (Thomson et al., 2002b). The results showed extensive damage to the retina in the carotenoid-deficient animals, as evidenced by large numbers of both dying photoreceptors and gaps or “ghosts” marking sites where photoreceptors had died. The group of quail with normal dietary levels of zeaxanthin showed significantly less retinal damage than did the zeaxanthin-deprived group, while the quail group receiving high levels of zeaxanthin had few ghosts in their retinas.

“Our studies showed that light damage was strongly influenced by the amount of zeaxanthin in the retina, and that significantly greater retinal protection was provided at dietary levels higher than those normally occurring in the diet,” said C. Kathleen Dorey, principal investigator formerly with Schepens and now with R&D Consulting. “Zeaxanthin has been extensively studied for safety and has been reviewed as a dietary ingredient by the FDA. We hope this work further stimulates interest in clinical trials, and believe that zeaxanthin has a potential to eventually complement other strategies to improve the treatment of this vision-robbing disease.”

• Vitamin C. Cataract is a condition that occurs when certain cells in the lens of the eye become cloudy, impairing the vision. The disease is thought to affect around 45% of people aged over 75. Research at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Mass., indicated that proper nutrition appeared to protect against age-onset cataracts (Taylor et al., 2002).

Researchers studied 492 nondiabetic women aged 53–73 from the Nurses’ Health Study cohort, a group of women nurses in the Boston area whose diet and health information had been followed up biennially since 1976. The women were without previously diagnosed cataracts. Usual nutrient intake was calculated as the average intake from five food-frequency questionnaires collected over a 13- to 15-year period before the eye examination. Duration of vitamin supplement use was determined from seven questionnaires collected during this same period.

A significant link was observed between age, vitamin C intake, and the prevalence of cataracts. For women younger than 60 years, the consumption of vitamin C (362 mg/day) was associated with a 57% lower risk of developing cortical opacities, and the use of vitamin C supplements for at least 10 years was associated with a 60% reduction in the risk of cataracts, when compared to no supplement use. Additionally, the incidence of posterior subcapsulary cataracts was considerably lower in women who had never smoked and who had high intakes of folate and carotenoids.

--- PAGE BREAK ---

Arthritis and Joint Health
More than 40 million people, or one in six, in the U.S. have some form of arthritis, and by the year 2020 it is estimated that more than 60 million people will be affected, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Arthritis Foundation. Approximately 20.7 million adults in the U.S. have the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease. Most persons over the age of 75 are affected with osteoarthritis in at least one joint. Rheumatoid arthritis, the most crippling form of arthritis, affects approximately 2.1 million Americans.

• Gelatin. According to information from DGF STOESS, a 2001 international multi-center study, gelatin provided relief for osteoarthritis patients. Twenty clinics participated in the study—eleven in Germany, three in the U.K., and six in the U.S. The study director was Roland Moskowitz, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Arthritis Research Institute at University Hospitals/Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Ohio.

The primary goal of the study was to determine whether the administration of gelatin could provide supplementary positive support to therapeutic measures taken for patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. After two months, those patients who had been administered regular doses of gelatin showed considerably less pain and demonstrated increased mobility compared to those who had not been treated in this way. “Gelatin hydrolysate can be of high potential benefit in the prevention of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis,” said Moskowitz.

Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TWHF). A team from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, led by Xuelian Tao, found that extracts of TWHF in a variety of doses were effective at alleviating rheumatoid arthritis (Tao et al., 2002).

The study participants were divided into groups and given 180 mg TWHF, 360 mg TWHF, or a placebo over a period of 20 weeks. Eight of those people on the high dose of TWHF and four of those on the lower dosage showed a 20% improvement or better in their symptoms, while none of those in the placebo group showed any improvement.

Tao’s team also noted that six study participants on the high dosage and five on the lower intake also suffered side-effects from the treatment, including hair loss, heartburn, and diarrhea. They noted, however, that this may not necessarily undermine the efficacy of the herb as an arthritis treatment, since five people in the placebo group also suffered similar side effects.

An Anti-Aging Antioxidant/Enzyme
At the December 2002 SupplySide West Show, PL Thomas & Co. Inc., Morristown, N.J., hosted a breakfast seminar where Carl Germano, Clinical Nutrition Consultant and author of the new book, SOD/Gliadin: The Ultimate Defense Against Disease and Aging, presented information on a new, orally available form of superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is a critically important enzyme naturally present in human tissue that promotes the removal of superoxide, a destructive free radical.

--- PAGE BREAK ---

 Free radicals are associated with many age-related degenerative diseases, such as arthritis and cataracts to cancer and heart disease. Germano noted that the production of SOD decreases as humans age. Low levels of SOD have been linked to some of these age-related diseases.

In arthritis, for example, an accumulation of the superoxide anion destroys surrounding cell tissue, including sensitive joint tissues such as cartilage. By quenching free radicals, SOD acts as an anti-inflammatory, slowing the development and progression, and may actually prevent the onset of certain kinds of arthritis.

GliSODin™, the new, vegetarian form of SOD, is available through PL Thomas & Co., Inc. A proprietary process integrates gliadin, a wheat fraction, with a form of SOD derived from melons. The gliadin polymer protects SOD from degradation from stomach acids and digestive enzymes and promotes the transport and uptake of the SOD molecule in the small intestines.

Current research from the French manufacturer provided through P.L. Thomas indicates that in addition to functioning as an antioxidant, GliSODin also functions as an immune modulator. It has been shown to initiate a three-phase immune response that begins when it is presented at a cellular level to the villi of the small intestine. The body’s various defense systems are stimulated to produce SOD, catalase, and L-glutathione peroxidase, three immune response enzymes at the cellular level. GliSODin not only neutralizes the superoxide radical, but also stimulates the production of these other two antioxidant enzymes, providing a cascade of defense.

For more information, visit or e-mail [email protected].

Developments That Changed Confectionery Packaging
Reviewing the multiplicity of confectionery packaging forms employed today would be a daunting task—suggested only for those who are pure students of this particular niche. Suffice it to suggest that some of the more interesting materials and structures of the late 20th century that changed confectionery packaging include:

--- PAGE BREAK ---

Cast polypropylene film with its transparency, moisture and fat barrier, and twist memory—for sugar pieces.

Oriented polypropylene film with its transparency, moisture and fat barrier, and eventual heat sealability—for pouches and overwraps.

Cavitated core-oriented polypropylene film, with its moisture and fat barrier, opacity, and stiffness resembling glassine—for bar wraps.

Vacuum metallized polypropylene, with its enhanced moisture barrier and its metallic-like appearance—for pouches.

Thin and thinner aluminum foil, with color to coordinate with the season/holiday/contents—for chocolate cones.

Injection-molded plastic that can be shaped to any device known to kids—computer, tape player, squirt gun, aerosol, whatever struck the manager’s imagination.

Injection-molded polyester preforms (tubes that precede the bottle-blowing operation), to contain anything that could flow or pour—and even their blown bottles and jars for very-highacid syrups.

Embossed and decorated metal cans—for sugar candies and breath mints.

Convolute and spiral-wound composite paperboard canisters—for cerealbased products.

• Stand up flexible pouches—for minibars.

Transfer metallized paper and paperboard—for boxed chocolates

.Plastic vials.

And others.

Contributing Editor
Chicago, Ill.

Register online for the 2003 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo.
Register at

About the Author

Linda Milo Ohr is a food scientist and writer based in Highlands Ranch, Colo. ([email protected]).
Linda Ohr


ADA. 2000. Nutrition, aging, and the continuum of care – Position of ADA. J. Am. Diet. Assn. 100: 580-595.

Bernstein, P.S., Zhao, D.Y., Wintch, S.W., Ermakov, I.V., McClane, R.W., and Gellermann, W. 2002. Resonance Raman measurement of macular carotenoids in normal subjects and in age-related macular degeneration patients. Ophthalmology. 109: 1780-1787.

Cartford, M.C., Gemma, C., and Bickford, P.C. 2002. Eighteen-month-old Fischer 344 rats fed a spinach-enriched diet show improved delay classical eye blink conditioning and reduced expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) and TNFbeta in the cerebellum. J. Neurosci. 22: 5813-5816.

Gemma, C., Mesches, M.H., Sepesi, B., Choo, K., Holmes, D.B., and Bickford, P.C. 2002. Diets enriched in foods with high antioxidant activity reverse age-induced decreases in cerebellar beta-adrenergic function and increases in proinflammatory cytokines. J. Neurosci. 22: 6114-6120.

Morris, M.C., Evans, D.A., Bienias, J.L., Tangney, C.C., and Wilson, R.W. 2002. Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons. Archives of Neurology 59: 1125-1132.

Tao, X., Younger, J., Fan, F.Z., Wang, B., and Lipsky, P.E. 2002. Benefit of an extract of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arthritis & Rheumatism 46: 1735-1743.

Taylor, A., Jacques, P.F., Chylack Jr., L.T., Hankinson, S.E., Khu, P.M., Rogers, G., Friend, J., Tung, W., Wolfe, J.K., Padhye, N., and Willett, W.C. 2002. Long-term intake of vitamins and carotenoids and odds of early age-related cortical and posterior subcapsular lens opacities. Am J. Clin. Nutr. 75: 540-549.

Thomson, L.R., Toyoda, Y., Langner, A., Delori, F.C., Garnett, K.M., Craft, N.E., Nichols, C.R., Cheng, C.R., and Dorey, C.K. 2002a. Elevated retinal zeaxanthin and prevention of light-induced photoreceptor cell death in quail. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 43: 3538-3549.

Thomson, L.R., Toyoda, Y., Delori, F.C., Garnett, K.M., Wong, Z.Y., Nichols, C.R., Cheng, K.M., Craft, N.E., and Dorey, C.K. 2002b. Long term dietary supplementation with zeaxanthin reduces photoreceptor death in light-damaged Japanese quail. Experimental Eye Research 75: 529-546.