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Safe, Effective Antioxidants

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Improved consumer and scientific understanding of antioxidants help grow the market.

The human body is in a constant state of metabolic reactions, several of which generate free radicals that need to be quenched since they can cause damage to cells, tissues and vital organs.

“The human system has the potential to quench these free radicals, but only to a certain extent,” said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director with Sabinsa in Utah. “With demanding, stressful lifestyles, free radical generation is very high and can be effectively controlled only with the use of antioxidants. In this scenario globally, the demand for antioxidants is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Statistics reveal that antioxidant consumption is highest in the U.S., Western Europe and China, the world’s largest markets. With increasing consumer awareness, this demand is anticipated to grow exponentially.”

John Deaton, vice president of science and technology with Deerland Enzymes in Georgia, said that, in addition, antioxidants target a wide range of health concerns, encompassing several product categories in the nutraceuticals space. “Antioxidants combat oxidative stress and support overall immunity. They also promote heart health, and can benefit the eyes, brain, joints and skin. Because of this wide variety of health benefits, along with a strong consumer awareness for antioxidants, we’re seeing these ingredients incorporated into products for anti-aging, cleansing/detox and even sports nutrition.”

The trends associated with antioxidants reflect a general consumer shift toward preventive health, due in part to our aging population. According to Sloan Trends, “Healthy Agers” is an identifiable 57 million person-strong, Baby Boomer sub-segment who are ready to make changes to their diets and lifestyles in the interest of remaining healthy and active. It is predicted that this group will reach 33 percent of the adult population by 2020. Top health concerns among this target are weight, heart health, joint, digestive health and energy levels.

Steve Siegel, vice president of New Jersey-based Ecuadorian Rainforest, also pointed out that according to a report by Grand View Research, the antioxidants market is set to be worth $4.14 billion by 2022. The growth is due to several factors, including more consumer awareness about the benefits of antioxidants and growth in new markets such as Asia.

A Closer Look

It is essential to provide natural antioxidants that are safe, effective and in a stable form, Majeed noted. “Another area of research interest is the bioavailability of natural products. Pharmacokinetics of compounds for their bioavailability is very crucial to fix safe and effective dosages of a compound.”

Although antioxidants are said to have a whole array of health benefits, Deaton noted that the trend seems to have moved from general antioxidants to condition-specific approaches that focus on the repair of specific tissues such as the liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines.

Dr. Aparna Kalidindi, technical sales and marketing manager with Natreon, Inc. in New Jersey, noted that the usefulness of ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) and FRAP (ferric reducing antioxidant power) have been questioned recently. “For example, ORAC is an in vitro test and does not measure bioavailability, in vivo stability, and retention of antioxidants by tissues,” she said.

“The ORAC score of a food or compound does not always predict the degree to which a compound is beneficial in the body. However, the ORAC value can be relevant in certain situations—it can still be used to identify foods that have been separately shown to have in vivo health benefits.”

Majeed added, “Proven and accepted testing methods, with high levels of reproducibility, have been accepted globally. With slight modifications in sample processing, FRAP and ORAC help analyze the antioxidant potential of any compound (lipophilic or lipophobic). More recent methodologies such as ABEL-RAC (analysis by emitted light – relative antioxidant capacity) are believed to be more sensitive methods of analysis. Similar to any other field of innovation, the analytical methodologies also evolve with more sensitivity.”

Deaton pointed out that there are four types of free radicals, and until recently, research has mainly focused on the hydroxyl variety. “In fact, the ORAC value has been a widely recognized indicator of antioxidant potency for many years,” he said. “The ORAC method essentially uses a specific antioxidant component of vitamin E as the standard for comparison. The drawback in using this method exclusively is that this component of vitamin E is only one type of antioxidant. It’s important to know that just because an ingredient doesn’t correlate with the properties of vitamin E, it doesn’t mean it’s low in antioxidant potency. Many researchers are finding that it makes more sense to combine the ORAC with other assays to get a more complete understanding.”

Furthermore, there is no evidence that ORAC values have any biological significance following consumption of any food, Deaton said. Researchers today are focusing more on how to make antioxidant products that are more bio-accessible. “Similarly, FRAP is a measurement of antioxidant power that uses blood plasma. This test is also somewhat limiting, as other tissues can be tested.”

Deaton concluded that tests such as ORAC and FRAP are still relevant, but only tell part of the story. “There are now much more comprehensive testing methods available to determine the actual antioxidant potency of an ingredient.”

Antioxidant Ingredient Trends

According to Majeed, curcumin is the most recent rock star herbal product, and, in addition to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, other curcumin attributes are its well-known antioxidant properties. Also, “we’re seeing a fairly rapid increase in sales of the adaptogen ashwagandha, which is a potent antioxidant. Vitamin E was formerly a very popular antioxidant that took a major plummet in sales when a frightening study on a limited segment of the population was widely reported in the media. The study was discredited, but it’s taken that vitamin a long time to recover consumer trust.”

At Natreon, turmeric/curcumin, alpha lipoic acid and astaxanthin are currently trending, Kalidindi said. Natreon’s standardized aqueous extracts—Capros (amla) for cardiovascular health, AyuFlex (Terminalia chebula) for joint health, Ayuric (Terminalia bellerica) for hyperuricemia are emerging antioxidants with multiple efficacy and safety studies to substantiate their health claims, she said.

For example, Capros has shown to improve endothelial function, increases nitric oxide levels by >50 percent, increases HDL by 20 percent and decreases LDL by 25 percent. AyuFlex improves joint health by decreasing mWOMAC scores by 36 percent compared to placebo. Ayuric decreases uric acid levels by 28 percent compared to placebo and was 60 percent as effective as the prescription medication febuxostat. Beta-carotene, vitamins C and E have recently fallen out of favor due to skepticism over the long-term health benefits, Kalidindi noted.

In addition, according to Deaton, exotic fruit and berry extracts are trending now, “but these are large complex molecules that are not easily absorbed. One of the more popular antioxidant ingredients is glutathione. You might call it ‘nature’s strongest antioxidant”—all living organisms have it, and it serves as a recycling pathway. It contributes directly to the destruction of reactive oxygen compounds and maintains/recycles vitamins C and E, which also exert an antioxidant effect. It’s a small peptide, making it more accessible and easily absorbed.”

Utilizing Antioxidant Ingredients

Many nutritionists insist that a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables provides a sufficient level of antioxidant support. “However, the polyphenols in these foods that provide the antioxidant action are large complex molecules that are often poorly absorbed by the body,” Deaton pointed out.

“Enzyme supplements continue to gain recognition among consumers for their role in the bioavailability of nutrients from foods,” he said. “The ability to break down food into its basic and useful components is of critical concern for consumers interested in functional nutrition for growth, development, and supporting healthy aging. For example, a supplement containing a blend of carbohydrase enzymes would maximize the bio-accessibility of the polyphenols present in the fruits and vegetables that are consumed.”

Deerland Enzymes’ ThioZyme AO is targeted to help maintain a healthy antioxidant/pro-oxidant balance. Unlike most antioxidant products on the market, ThioZymeAO combines pivotal cellular antioxidants with their vital partners, antioxidant enzymes, to combat toxic free radicals and help alleviate damaging oxidative stress, according to Deaton.

The components of ThioZymeAO work synergistically to keep the body’s defensive network functioning properly, both by direct antioxidant action and by regeneration of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and glutathione. ThioZymeAO replicates the body’s main anti-oxidant defense system with endogenous antioxidants and provides the components required to replicate the body’s own antioxidant “recycling” mechanism.

Though the general population may not be able to describe the mechanism of action, they know antioxidants are good for them, Majeed added. “Vitamin C is a good example of this. Consumers find them in foods and beverages that may be labeled ‘a good source of antioxidants,’ but they also look for them in dietary supplements.”

And although antioxidants are still a strong marketing point for supplements, said Siegel, consumers are also looking for additional benefits. “When promoting natural antioxidant supplements, a great way to entice consumers and keep them over time is to alert them to other benefits they would receive by using the product.”

“While consumers are aware of the benefits of antioxidants, they want a product that gives them more,” Majeed agreed, adding that curcumin and ashwagandha are so popular because they convey other positive benefits as well antioxidant properties. “As effective as antioxidants are in quenching free radicals, a healthier lifestyle is an essential requirement for good health,” he noted. “Regular physical activities, intake of balanced nutrition, maintaining sleep patterns along with safe natural antioxidants is a holistic approach to be fit and fine tomorrow.” NIE

For More Information:
Deerland Enzymes, (800) 697-8179
Ecuadorian Rainforest, (973) 759-2002
Natreon, Inc., (732) 296-1080
Sabinsa, (801) 465-8400