Health claim: Carbohydrate solutions contribute to the improvement of physical performance during a high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise

Health claim: Carbohydrate solutions contribute to the improvement of physical performance during a high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise

Following an application from Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), submitted for authorisation of a health claim pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 via the Competent Authority of France, the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to carbohydrate (CHO) solutions and contribute to the improvement of physical performance during a high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise.

The scope of the application was proposed to fall under a health claim based on newly developed scientific evidence.

The general approach of the NDA Panel for the evaluation of health claims applications is outlined in the EFSA general guidance for stakeholders on health claim applications and the guidance on the scientific requirements for health claims related physical performance.

The food proposed by the applicant as the subject of the health claim is carbohydrate solutions. The Panel considers that CHO solutions (containing glucose, mixtures of glucose and fructose, sucrose and/or maltodextrins), which are the subject of the health claim, are sufficiently characterised in relation to the claimed effect.

The claimed effect proposed by the applicant is ‘contribute to the improvement of physical performance during a high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise’. The proposed target population is ‘healthy physically active, trained or well-trained adults (male and female) engaged in a high-intensity exercise lasting more than one hour’. The applicant defines high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercises being performed at least at 65% of the VO2max, at maximal effort, or during a time trial test for at least 60 min. The Panel considers that contribution to the improvement of physical performance during a high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise is a beneficial physiological effect.

A total of 14 human intervention studies investigating the effect of CHO solutions on physical performance were provided by the applicant. Among these, five were conducted in non-fasting conditions after a standardised meal and seven were conducted after an overnight fast. In the remaining two studies, the nutritional conditions before the test were not sufficiently specified.

The Panel considers that human intervention studies investigating the effects of CHO solutions compared to water, or the effects of CHO–electrolyte solutions compared to water/electrolyte-matched solutions, on physical performance could provide evidence for the substantiation of the claim proposed by the applicant on CHO solutions. The Panel also considers that no conclusions can be drawn from three of the studies provided for the scientific substantiation of the claim owing to the lack of control for the electrolytes present in the test beverages.

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that the consumption of CHO solutions providing about 30–60 g CHO/h, and up to about 90 g CHO/h when about one-third of the CHO were in the form of fructose, during high-intensity exercise and long duration physical exercise consistently improved physical performance in four studies conducted in non-fasting conditions with standardised feeding protocols before the trial sessions. The Panel also took into account that the effect is supported by four studies conducted in fasting conditions and by two studies in which the nutritional status of participants before the test was not sufficiently specified. In addition, the Panel considered that the mechanisms by which the consumption of CHO solutions during high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise could exert the claimed effect are well established.

The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of CHO solutions and the improvement of physical performance during high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise.

The following wording reflects the scientific evidence: ‘Carbohydrate solutions can contribute to the improvement of physical performance during a high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise in healthy trained adults’.

In order to obtain the claimed effect, carbohydrate solutions (containing glucose, mixtures of glucose and fructose, sucrose and/or maltodextrins) should be consumed to provide between 30 and 60 g of CHO/h, and up to 90 g CHO/h if fructose constitutes about one-third of the carbohydrate mixture. The target population is healthy trained adults performing high-intensity (at least at 65% of the VO2max) and long-lasting (at least 60 min) physical exercise


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Ria Van Hoef