Supply Spotlight: Softgel Technologies

The introduction of soft-gel technology some 20 years ago fomented something of a revolution in the nutrient-delivery industry. The technology allows for superior protection of the active ingredients in the fill material from oxidation, moisture and microbial contamination. It also allows for increased bioavailability of active ingredients. Because soft gels are easier to swallow, and they can mask unpleasant odours and flavours, their popularity has steadily increased.

Since its inception more than a decade ago, Soft Gel Technologies (SGTI) has focused on ingredients that were difficult to absorb, or encapsulate, or fragile to work with. The company has focused on developing proprietary technologies to increase nutrient bioavailability. According to Ron Udell, SGTI's president and CEO, most of the company's patents are for significant technological breakthroughs in this area.

Udell says the company has striven to carve out a niche by gearing up to produce a broader range of gels and products to serve its clients. "The early industry was about standard products, like vitamin E in 400USP," he says. "We can now provide a much greater variety of services, including imprinting to reinforce brand identity, flavouring to mask unpalatable tastes, and gels in various sizes."

But where the company has contributed most uniquely, Udell believes, is in special content. "We initiated a new trend with this," he says. "We have sought to develop unique, multibenefit products with an emphasis on human trials."

For example, SGTI developed CoQsol in 1996. CoQsol is a soft-gel formulation of co-Q10 that includes other antioxidants such as beta carotene and mixed tocopherols. In clinical research, CoQsol has improved serum levels of co-Q10; a preclinical trial demonstrated that it was preferentially absorbed into heart-cell mitochondria, the energy source for the heart. SGTI currently holds five patents on the product.

Seeking to improve nutrient yield, the company created CoQsol-CF, a solubilised form of co-Q10 in a proprietary matrix. The formula dissolves the crystals that are formed when co-Q10 is produced commercially, and prevents the solution from recrystallising. A human clinical trial revealed that rate of absorption was 550 times higher for CoQsol-CF than for co-Q10 powder.

This same strategy led to the development of LyCoQ, combining CoQsol with the patented tomato extract from LycoRed, Lyc-O-Mato. Lyc-O-Mato whole-tomato extract is standardised to six per cent lycopene, a carotenoid offering superb antioxidant activity. Studies have demonstrated that, in addition to quenching free radicals, Lyc-O-Mato supplementation may be associated with a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Yet another innovative and exclusive SGTI product is Injuv. It is a unique cosmeceutical supplement that contains a low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid derived from rooster combs. This was developed by Japanese scientists who found a proprietary enzyme-cleaving technique to permit absorption of the hyaluronic-acid molecule. Injuv, therefore, is able to be absorbed by the intestinal tract, enter the bloodstream and move to its target sites. An early Japanese clinical study subject cited improvements in everything from skin texture to eyesight and joint stiffness.

In the weight-management arena, SGTI produces 3-TriLean, which contains a unique blend of branded ingredients: GlucoFit, Clarinol conjugated linoleic acid, and Phase 2 Starch Neutralizer, all of which have been shown in research studies to promote healthy body composition.

Soft-gel technology continues to advance, and SGTI now offers chewable soft-gel capsules that are particularly useful for children and the elderly. Once made from only bovine or porcine gelatin, soft gels now can be made from a variety of materials — fish, chicken, and nonanimal-derived gelatin. In developing chewables, Udell says, taste was one problem, mouthfeel another. "We've overcome challenges of dissolvability; we've developed flavour systems for fill material and the capsules themselves. We've long been at work on this and have just started production on turnkey custom chewables for clients."

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