Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to beta-palmitate and increased calcium absorption pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006
Following an application from IDACE, submitted pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 via the Competent Authority of France, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to beta-palmitate and increased calcium absorption. The scope of the application was proposed to fall under a health claim referring to children’s development and health. The food constituent that is the subject of the health claim is beta-palmitate, a structured triglyceride with a high content of palmitic acid at the sn-2 (middle or beta) position of the glycerol backbone. Beta-palmitate is considered to be sufficiently characterised. The claimed effect is “beta palmitate enrichment contributes to increase calcium absorption”. The target population proposed by the applicant is infants from birth to 12 months of age, including healthy infants consuming follow-on formula, preterm infants and infants needing foods for particular nutritional uses including foods for special medical purposes. The Panel considers that an increase in calcium absorption might be a beneficial physiological effect. In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account the biological plausibility of the mechanism by which beta-palmitate could exert the claimed effect and that three small human intervention studies in preterm and term infants provided some evidence that a higher degree of palmitic acid in the sn-2 position of formula triglycerides may increase calcium absorption by decreasing faecal calcium excretion as calcium soaps, albeit a significant effect on calcium absorption was demonstrated in one study only. The Panel concludes that the evidence provided is insufficient to establish a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of beta-palmitate and an increase in calcium absorption.