Heart disease is responsible for nearly half (49 per cent) of all deaths in Europe, killing more than 4.35 million people each year. Reducing cholesterol is one of the most important preventable factors in the disease.
Both soy protein and plant sterols extracted from soy are already well established in the heart health foods market, with the US Food and Drug Administration backing health claims for their effects on cholesterol-lowering however recently the US soy processor ADM has gained additional patents for the combination of soy protein and sterols in functional foods, giving food formulators extra leverage in the heart health category.
Officials at ADM say using both ingredients together creates the possibility for dual claims on the packaging and appeal to health-conscious consumers who seek out approved claims on the products they purchase. However ADM says it has not tested the effect of a soy protein and sterol combination on cholesterol or other heart health markers so it is not yet clear how much extra benefit a product containing both ingredients could offer.
Currently cereal products make up 46 per cent of the foods carrying heart health claims in the US, Japan, Australia and five major European markets, according to UK consultancy Leatherhead Food, largely because of their high fiber content. But both soy protein and sterols are among a handful of other ingredients increasingly used in this $3.6 billion market and it has been forecast that this category will grow by 60 per cent to reach nearly $5.7 billion by 2009 as food makers try to help prevent the biggest cause of deaths around the world.