ALIC said this week that the new functional fermented soybean paste (miso), designed in collaboration with the University of Miyazaki, Itoham and Yamae Foods, has three times the content of calcium of the regular miso, a principal foodstuff of the Japanese.
'This miso includes more amino acids than typical miso because skimmed milk is degraded and fermented thoroughly in the fermentation process,' said ALIC.
Keen to keep an ageing population healthy - it is estimated that by 2025, 28 per cent of the Japanese population will be over 65 years old - in 1984 this trendsetting country laid out the Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU) programme, ushering in the age of functional foods. An industry that in the US alone has retail sales that top $10 billion a year, as well as an annual growth rate of 8 per cent to 10 per cent predicted for the next five years.
Japan continues to build on the consumer demand to boost health and prevent disease through food. In 2002 the Japanese government cleared 149 finished food products for FOSHU, mostly in the soft drink/beverage market.
The US Institute of Food Technologists claims that calcium is the ingredient most frequently added to functional foods. In addition to building a strong skeleton, calcium is essential for muscle function, hormone regulation, enzyme activation and preventing the onset of osteoporosis, the gradual decline in bone mass with age. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the majority of osteoporotic fractures occur in older women, due to a natural decline in bone density after the menopause. The risk of suffering such a fracture over the course of life is about 40 per cent for women, and 13 per cent for men.
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for calcium for children aged between 9 to 18 is 1,300 mg per day, and for adults 51 and older 1,200 mg per day. Frequently children, as well as adults, replace milk with other beverages. In Japan, the average calcium intake is 573 mg per day, which has led to the introduction of many FOSHU products that contain calcium and many of these are beverage-type products.
According to ALIC, the recently designed miso also has four times the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition activity, 'expected to prevent hypertension'.
Competing against the supplement market with this new product, ALIC added: "Enriching miso, a staple of the Japanese diet, will enable consumers to enhance their health more than supplements."
News on research and development activities in Japan continue with reports in the Japanese press this week suggesting that Japanese food conglomerate Kagome has 'elucidated that beta-carotene derived from carrots is one of the antiallergics'. In collaboration with the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS), according to the press, the study suggests that regularly drinking carrot juice could help prevent and treat a range of allergies. Detailed research results will be presented at the 124th Annual Meeting of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan held from 29-31 March in Osaka, Japan.