Event Review: Food Antioxidants – ’Why consumers can’t know they’re there’

06 September 2018

SCI’s Lipids and Food groups jointly organised Food Antioxidants and Functional Ingredients: Shelf Life Extension, Nutrition and Health, held on 7-8 March 2018 at SCI HQ in London. 

Dr Nicola Caporaso and Dr Parkash Kochhar

The conference was attended by about 50 delegates, consisting of producers of food antioxidants, food industry representatives, nutritionists, health authorities, food scientists, phytochemicals researchers and supplement manufacturers, from ten countries.

On the first day, Dr Parkash Kochhar, from the principal organising committee, welcomed delegates with a brief talk on the global growth of food antioxidants market, which is projected to reach $1.5bn by 2022. This is directly influenced by the increase in the purchasing power of the global population, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The keynote lecture was given by Professor Fatima Paiva-Martins, a recognised expert in antioxidants research, from the University of Porto in Portugal. She delivered an excellent lecture on the mechanistic actions of food antioxidants and described experiments carried out by her group to further understand the effect of antioxidant and pro-oxidant compounds in emulsions, in relation to the droplet size and lipid structure, as well as physical localisation of the antioxidant compounds.

Dr Charlotte Jacobsen, from the Technical University of Denmark, delivered a presentation focused on omega-3 supplements, showing the reason for investigating new types of antioxidants. Dr Jacobsen reported the use of several natural and synthetic antioxidants, including potato peel, seaweed, peptides from milk and fish, in PUFA-rich food systems such as mayonnaise, milk, and yoghurt.

Dr Henna Liu from Kalsec presented on improving shelf life of nuts using natural antioxidants, while Ron Savin of Alan Paar Ltd reported a rapid method for determination of oxidative stability of foods, oils, and fats. Dr Nicola Caporaso then delivered a presentation on virgin olive oil chemistry in relation to its functional properties with specific regards to its natural antioxidants.

Dr Timothy Lumb from ALS Food and Pharmaceutical presented an overview of the legislation on antioxidants in foods and ‘why the consumer can’t know they are there’. Dr Lumb described the antioxidants as under-represented in food marketing, despite their interest from a health point of view. Of the 148 proposed health claims by EU legislation on nutrition and health claims, only 18 are approved for use and only two of these were – Vitamins C and E with a third represented by olive oil polyphenols – related to antioxidant properties.

Dr Jan Knight of Knight Scientific Limited gave a presentation on the use of the term ‘antioxidants’ by the food industry and the methods that can be used to assess the antioxidant capacity in final food products, for example, ABEL-RAC and ORAC.

On the second day of conference, Dr Charlotte Mills from King’s College London explained the nutrition and health significance of dietary antioxidants, while Dr Elizabeth Opara from Kingston University reported on the challenges related to the measure of the antioxidant activity in culinary herbs and spices, and how deducing the ‘true’ health benefit might be not straightforward from in vitro analyses.

Dr Grahame Mackenzie, Technical Director of Sporomex Ltd, presented an innovative application of sporopollenin shells from plant spores and pollen to be used as novel antioxidants and delivery microcapsules. Dr Kirsten Brandt at Newcastle University proposed an unconventional point of view on the reasons for which experts apparently disagree on the health benefits of food antioxidants and commented on the reason why researchers should strictly follow the scientific method when looking into antioxidants and their health benefits.

Dr Ditte Hobbs from the University of Reading reported that beetroot’ which naturally contains high amounts of nitrates, might have beneficial vascular effects such as lowering blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, preserving endothelial dysfunction, and enhancing mitochondrial efficiency.

The conference concluded with a presentation by Sam Jennings of Berry Ottaway & Associated on the regulatory aspects of antioxidants used in foods and supplements in both the UK and EU. It was reported that tEU Regulation 1924/2006 restricted the use of the term ‘antioxidant’ in products, due to the complexity. Some of the issues relate to the duality of function of some antioxidants to be used in food for technological purposes and for nutritional purposes.

The meeting was rich in questions and debates, including poster sessions during the refreshment breaks and networking at the conference dinner, and researchers seemed to agree that more research is needed on the fundamental side – understanding on the mechanistic cause of food antioxidant health effects – and on the applications – the most appropriate method to measure antioxidant activity and use of antioxidants and functional ingredients in a wider variety of food products.

The two-day event, organised mainly by Dr Parkash Kochhar, Craig Duckham, DR Charlotte Mills, and the SCI staff was indeed a great success. 

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