Osteoporosis drastically reduces the quality of life for many elderly people. It increases the risk of falls and fractures, which are associated with serious disability and increased mortality rates. Osteoporosis affects 2.2 million elderly people in Australia. By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fractures in men is projected to increase by 310% and 240% in women, compared to rates in 1990.
Calcium is a key nutrient for bone health even in the elderly. In fact, calcium intake has been shown to have a positive effect on bone mineral density. Good nutrition also plays a role in the successful rehabilitation of patients who have suffered osteoporotic fractures.
With increasing life expectancy in Asia Pacific, it is crucial for the elderly to maintain good health, so that they can live their golden years to the fullest. How can food manufacturers play a part in stemming the tide of osteoporosis?
Increasing calcium absorption
It is known that consuming calcium-rich foods as part of a healthy diet is important for bone health, since the body does not produce its own calcium. However, many people in Australia do not consume adequate dietary calcium. Furthermore, most people absorb only about 30 percent of dietary calcium, while the rest is excreted.
One way that food manufacturers can help improve bone health in the elderly is by boosting calcium absorption using innovative food ingredients, such as Beneo’s Orafti Syngery1 (oligofructose-enriched inulin). Orafti Synergy1 enhances the bioavailability of calcium in the diet so that more calcium is absorbed. It is a patented blend of oligofructose and inulin, which are extracted from the chicory plant.
Oligofructose and inulin are prebiotic fibres that stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria, the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine that helps to support a healthy digestive system. The prebiotic fermentation of these fibres leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids in the large intestine, which acidifies the entire large intestine and thus enhances the body’s absorption of calcium. This calcium-enhancing benefit of Orafti Synergy1 has been shown in several human intervention studies where it increased calcium absorption and bone mineral density.
This translates into tangible improvements in bone health, such as a marked increase in bone mineral density. The study, conducted on 100 subjects, was designed to test whether oligofructose-enriched inulin could increase calcium absorption in the bones. Over a period of one year, calcium accretion in the bones increased by as much as 17 percent in the group supplemented with oligofructose-enriched inulin compared to a control group.
Naturally good to the bone
Besides looking for products that can benefit bone health, today’s consumers prefer products of natural origin, which reassures them of the safety and trustworthiness of food products.
Beneo’s inulin and oligofructose stand out in the market as the only existing prebiotics derived from non-animal sources. They are of 100% plant origin and are naturally extracted from chicory root using hot water.
These naturally-extracted soluble prebiotic fibres are easily incorporated into dairy products, which can boost the nutritional value of bone-friendly food products in a natural way. This makes them attractive options to boost bone health, and are highly suitable for all age groups, including the elderly.
Inulin and oligofructose also work well with other popular products, such as baked goods and cereal bars. With a mild, sugar-like sweetness, oligofructose can be used to reduce sucrose in food and increase fibre content, at just half the calories of sugar. In addition, inulin can be used to replace part of the fat content in some foods, thus allowing for maximum nutritional benefits without changing desired textures and tastes.
Building the foundations of a happy life
As a society we are living longer, but with that comes the need to maintain the health of our elderly so that they can stay active and enjoy their golden years to their hearts’ content. Osteoporosis rates are projected to escalate to epidemic proportions in Asia Pacific, and food manufacturers can address the problem through healthy, prevention-oriented nutrition, with products such as those formulated with Beneo’s Orafti Synergy1 to increase calcium absorption.
[Christian Philippsen is Managing Director, Beneo Asia Pacific]
 Epidemiology and outcomes of osteoporotic fractures – Cummings and Melton, 2002