Which is the best health drink for kids?

Health drinks are one of the most advertised products on TV to catch the attention of  parents of growing children. These malt based drinks make tall claims but are they actually that nutritious. Consumer  VOICE tested malt based health drinks at NABL accredited labs to find the best health drink for the kids. 

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Overview

Health drinks are Malt-based beverages that enhance the taste of milk and provide a nutritional thrust.  India is claimed to be the world’s largest malt-based drinks market and accounts for about 22 percent of the world’s retail volume sales. Growing awareness around health food and beverages has meant a consistent boost for products in the ‘health and nutrition’ segment. In view of the growing popularity of the ‘health drinks’, at Consumer VOICE we took up eight brands for comparative testing. Four malt based drinks were Boost, Horlicks, Amul Pro and Bournvita. Amongst the proprietary food were Pediasure, Complan, Ensure and Protinex. Consumer Voice took particular note of the label declarations with regard to nutritional contents and other claims.

The national standards in India have spelled out various requirements for health drinks covering quality, safety and acceptability aspects. While the four proprietary brands are not standardised under any regulations, there are safety and nutritional requirements that they need to fulfill.

The tests were conducted at an NABL-accredited laboratory and as per requirements specified in Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Regulations, 2011. For more details click here.

The key parameters for which the health drinks were tested included energy value, protein, vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, fat, moisture and acid-insoluble ash.

BRANDS STUDIED

 
  • Boost
  • Horlicks
  • Amul Pro
  • Bournvita
  • Pediasure
  • Complan
  • Ensure
  • Protinex

 

PARAMETERS STUDIED

  • Energy 
  • Protein 
  • Acid-Insoluble Ash
  • Alcoholic Acidity 
  • Total Sugar 
  • Moisture
  • Fat
  • Vitamin D 
  • Calcium 
  • Phosphorus
  • Niacin
  • Saturated Fat 
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Cholesterol
  • Trans Fat

Consumer VOICE Recommendations

BEST BUY

Malt-based food

Boost

BEST BUY

Proprietary food (for children)

PediaSure

Value for Money

Amul Pro

Comparative study

Score Rating: >90: very good*****, 71–90: good****, 51–70: average***, 31–50: poor**, up to 30: very poor*
*With regard to recommendations/claims made by companies, we had asked GlaxoSmithKline, Abbott Healthcare, and Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd for scientific/clinical data as documentary evidence for their claims. While Abbott Healthcare sent an abstract in support of claims for Ensure and PediaSure. No reply was received from GlaxoSmithKline and Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.

Notes:

a) Complan and Horlicks were sold with free 200 gm tomato ketchup and sipper respectively.
b) Ensure is recommended for recovery from illness and contains low sugar, while Protinex contains high protein and low fat Therefore no comparison was done in their case.

c) Charges indicated here are exclusive of GST as applicable at notified rates
d) For this comparative exercise, we have chosen only basic cards or cards with least fee applicable as offered by banks

Key Findings

  • Based on the overall test findings, the top performer  is Boost in the malt-based food category and PediaSure in the category of proprietary food (for children).
  • The value-for-money brand is Amul Pro.
  • In the sensory panel tests, Horlicks was the most acceptable brand.
  • The highest energy value was found in PediaSure.

Key findings based on individual parameters

  • All the brands met the microbiological requirements and can be considered safe for consumption.
  • Sugar was found lowest in Ensure and highest in Bournvita.
  • Alcoholic acidity of all four brands of malt-based foods was found to be beyond the specified limit of 0.30 per cent.
  • Energy value in all the brands was above or close to the declared value. PediaSure was found with the highest energy value and was hence assigned the highest score.
  • In protein content, most of the brands were found closer to the claimed values. Horlicks had protein content less than its declared value. Protinex had the highest protein content followed by Ensure.
  • All the malt-based food brands were within the specified limit for moisture.
  • Alcoholic acidity in all four brands of malt-based foods was found to be above the specified limit and hence did not meet the standard requirement.
  • All the malt-based products were within the permissible limit for total ash.
  • Sugar was lowest in Ensure (24.8 gm/100 gm) and highest in Bournvita (40.31 gm/100 gm).
  • Fat content in most of the brands was found close to the declared value.
  • Saturated fat was found lowest in Protinex (0.54 gm/100 gm) and highest in PediaSure (4.56 gm/100 gm). (Saturated fat in health drinks should be lower)
  • Trans fat and cholesterol were not detected in any of the samples up to a detection limits.

For detailed analysis please click here

TEST RESULTS

FOR PHYSICOCHEMICAL PARAMETERS

  • Energy

The source of energy in this category of health drinks is carbohydrates, fats, etc., which are mainly derived from milk solids and sugar. There are no specified requirements in FSS Regulations, but these should be higher in health drinks. In our tests, we compared the total energy value (per 100 gm of sample calculated in Kcal) with the declared value.

  • Energy value in all the brands was above or close to the declared value. PediaSure was found with the highest energy value and was hence assigned the highest score.
  • Protein

Proteins are instrumental in forming cells, repairing tissue, making antibodies, building nucleoproteins (RNA/DNA), carrying oxygen throughout the body and assisting muscle activity. These must be present in a good amount in health drinks. The source of protein here is mainly the milk solids added during preparation.

In malt-based foods, total protein shall not be less than seven per cent. There are no specified requirements for proprietary food.

  • Most of the brands were found closer to the claimed values. Horlicks had protein content less than its declared value.
  • Acid-Insoluble Ash

Acid-insoluble ash is the amount of ash that is insoluble in diluted hydrochloric acid. It indicates the presence of sand, dirt and dust. As per FSS Regulations, acid-insoluble ash in malt-based food shall not be more than 0.1 per cent by weight. There is no requirement for proprietary food.

  • All the malt-based brands were found to be well within the specified limit.

Total Ash

This is the inorganic residue that remains in a food product after heating. Ash is calculated by heating the sample at 550 to 600 degrees C, which destroys all organic matter. Ash in malt-based food shall not be more than five per cent by weight. There is no requirement for proprietary food.

  • All the malt-based products were within the permissible limit for total ash.

Total Sugar

Sugar is used as a taste enhancer; it also gives energy. Although no requirement for sugar has been specified, a higher quantity is not desirable. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and other problems.

  • Sugar was lowest in Ensure (24.8 gm/100 gm) and highest in Bournvita (40.31 gm/100 gm).

 

  • Alcoholic Acidity

Alcoholic acidity increases over a period of storage. Higher alcoholic acidity is not desirable. For malt-based food, alcoholic acidity shall not be more than 0.30 per cent. There is no requirement for proprietary food.

 

  • Alcoholic acidity in all four brands of malt-based foods was found to be above the specified limit and hence did not meet the standard requirement.

 

 

  • Moisture

Moisture generally refers to the presence of water in a product. Moisture (above the specified limit) should not be present in the product as it causes the formation of lumps and can cause deterioration of the content. As per FSS Regulations, moisture content in malt-based food shall not be more than five per cent by weight. There is no such requirement for proprietary foods.

 

  • All the malt-based food brands were within the specified limit for moisture.

 

 

  • Fat

Fats are sources of essential fatty acids, an important dietary requirement. Fats play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and hair, insulating body organs against shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function. Sources of fats are the milk solids as well as the cocoa solids added during the preparation of a product. There are no specified requirements for fats for either malt-based food or proprietary food.

 

  • Fat content in most of the brands was found close to the declared value.

 

 

No Bad Fats, Please

  • Saturated Fat

Replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles. Goes without saying that saturated fat in health drinks should be lower.

 

  • Saturated fat was found lowest in Protinex (0.54 gm/100 gm) and highest in PediaSure (4.56 gm/100 gm).

 

 

  •  Cholesterol and Trans Fat

Trans fat is considered to be the worst type of fat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and lowers HDL (‘good’) cholesterol.

  • Trans fat was not detected in any of the samples up to a detection limit 0.2 gm/100 gm.
  • As for cholesterol, it is needed by the human body but too much is not good. The body has two types of cholesterol – LDL ( bad cholesterol), which can result in fatty deposits in our arteries and HDL ( good cholesterol) which absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. Cholesterol was not detected in any brand up to the detection limit of 8 mg/100 gm.

 

All of the Vitamins

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Also known as nicotinic acid, niacin plays an integral role in the conversion of food to energy and also helps synthesize necessary macromolecules like fatty acids and cholesterol. As a water-soluble vitamin, niacin is continually lost in the urine and needs to be replaced in one’s diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Indians, 2011, by National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, recommend that male adolescents consume 16 milligrams of niacin per day, while for females it is 14 milligrams.
In health drinks the major source of niacin is malt.

  • The highest amount of niacin was found in Boost (40.56 mg/100 gm).
  • Vitamin D

It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralisation of bone and to prevent hypocalcaemic tetany. It is also needed for bone growth. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU or 15 mcg.

  • Vitamin D was highest in Horlicks (14.7 mcg/100 gm) and lowest in PediaSure Ensure (3.31 mcg/100 gm).
  • Folic acid (Vitamin B9)

Folic acid is one of the most essential of all vitamins. It is an essential nutrient primarily because it is needed for the production and maintenance of new cells in the body. This becomes increasingly important during the periods when there is rapid cell growth and division, such as during pregnancy for women and infancy in children. As per Dietary Guidelines for Indians, 2011, the RDA is 200 µg per day.
Malt is an essential source of folic acid.

  • In the laboratory tests, all the samples were found to have folic acid in different amounts.
  • Calcium

The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many other important functions. Almost all calcium intake is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness. In malt-based food, the calcium is primarily sourced from the milk solids as well as added to the composition. Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium is 600 mg per day.

  • With the exception of Bournvita, all brands had calcium above their declared values. The highest quantity of calcium was found in Protinex (1,116.31 mg/100 gm).
  • Phosphorus

Phosphorus is considered to be an essential nutrient required for proper cell functioning, regulation of calcium, strong bones and teeth, and making ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that provides energy to our cells. Deficiency in phosphorus can lead to lowered appetite, anaemia, muscle pain, improper bone formation (rickets), numbness and a weakened immune system.

  • Phosphorus was found highest in Protinex, followed by Boost.
  • Iron

Iron is an integral part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health. Iron deficiency can cause a disease called anaemia, which makes one feel dizzy, tired and apathetic. The daily recommended dosage of iron is 17 mg. Iron is expected to be higher in health drinks.

  • Iron was found to be highest in Boost (34.73 mg/100 gm) and lowest in Ensure (8.54 mg/100 gm).
  • Potassium

Potassium is involved in nerve function, muscle control and blood pressure. It works with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance. Malt beverages are generally a good source of potassium.

  • Highest amount of potassium was found in Ensure (1,096.62 mg/100 gm) and PediaSure (1,052.35 mg/100 gm).

Note: As per recommended guidelines of FSSAI, proprietary food may contain vitamins and minerals in quantities not exceeding one RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance ) of the respective micronutrients. In view of this it is advisable that one should not consume more than the recommended doses.

QUALITY & NUTRIENTS SCORES

FOR MICROBIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY

All the brands were tested for 10 microbiological activities. Due to improper or poor hygienic condition during the manufacturing process, microorganisms may occur in the finished product.

 

  • All the brands were within the specified limit for total bacterial count, coliform count, yeast and mould count, and faecal streptococci.

 

  • Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli, Vibrio cholera, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Staphylococcus aureus were not detected in any brand.

FOR SENSORY ATTRIBUTES

A seven-member team judged the sensory attributes of the health drinks. Firstly, the powdered form was examined for appearance and texture, flavour, odour, and taste, and scores were assigned by the panellists. Next, a fixed quantity of powder was mixed in milk (as per recommendation) to examine various consumer-centric attributes such as taste, flavour/aroma, appearance/texture, residues/sediments and aftertaste feel. Accordingly, scores were given by the panellists.

  • In the powdered form, Horlicks was found to have the most acceptable taste, followed by Amul Pro. After preparation in milk, it was again Horlicks and Amul Pro that were found to have the most acceptable taste.

FOR GENERAL QUALITIES

 

  • Packing

 

Health drinks are required to be packed in hermetically sealed, clean and sound tin containers or glass bottles or other moisture-proof containers – such as rigid containers made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or containers made from flexible packaging material such as laminates of paper, polyethylene and aluminium foil. The packaging is to be done in such a way so as to protect the product from deterioration during storage as well as from moisture. Higher score has been given for packing that is convenient, highly reusable and easily recyclable.

 

  • Packaging in all the brands was as per requirements. Five brands – Boost, Horlicks, PediaSure, Ensure and Protinex – had reusable packaging.