Patents File

Evidence is mounting on the potential of antioxidant-rich diets to counter free radical damage that can lead to heart disease, cancer, cataracts, rheumatism and many other auto-immune diseases. Judy Davis looks at innovations in the sector.

L-Carnitine/Polyphenol Combination
Italy-based sigma-tau HealthScience has patented a supplement containing an alkanoyl L-carnitine and a mixture of plant polyphenols as the active ingredients, a combination the company claims acts synergistically to provide potent antioxidant and free radical-scavenging activity.

L-carnitine is essential for the production of energy from fat. Plant polyphenols have antioxidant properties and are known to protect against LDL-cholesterol oxidation. Phenolic antioxidants act at different stages of the oxidation process, including preventing the formation of free radicals and terminating their activity.

According to the patent, the carnitine derivative can be either propionyl L-carnitine or isovaleryl L-carnitine, and the polyphenols—mainly proanthocyanidins—are extracted from cocoa. The supplement is claimed to treat or prevent inflammatory and metabolic disorders, immune deficiencies, and learning and ageing disorders, and it may enhance metabolic energy in athletes.

A similar product, also patented by sigma-tau HealthScience, contains as the active ingredients an alkanoyl L-carnitine combined with polyphenols extracted from trees, such as the maritime or cluster pine, chestnut or oak, or from shrubs such as forsythia. (PCT Patent Applications WO 01/91589 and WO 01/91590)

Cell Protectors
Pharmaton SA in Switzerland has developed a product designed to protect cells from diseases caused by the overproduction of free radicals. The product contains a mixture of lipophilic and hydrophilic anti-oxidants that may act synergistically to provide improved cell protection. The hydrophilic antioxidants include ascorbic acid and an extract of the red grapeseed plant (Vitis vinifera). The lipophilic antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene and an extract of the lycopene plant Lycopersicum esculentum. The product is preferably formulated in a natural plant oil base, such as soybean oil, grapeseed oil or peanut oil, or in a lecithin or plant phosphatide base. (PCT Patent Application WO 01/89542)

Complete Eye Health
Evidence suggests a long-term protective effect of antioxidants on age-related macular degeneration of the eye—the most common cause of blindness amongst older people in Western society. The main focus of interest is on derivatives of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin that are selectively deposited in the macula lutea, an area of the retina responsible for central and high acuity vision. These carotenoids function both as filters of high-energy blue light to protect the sensitive cells of the retina and as powerful antioxidants. Other degenerative eye disorders—namely cataracts and glaucoma—are also thought to respond to antioxidants.

Now, Nutricia, a part of the Netherlands-based Koninklijke Numico N.V. company, has patented a nutraceutical formulation aimed at all three major causes of eye dysfunction. As well as antioxidants, the product includes herbal extracts of chrysanthemum, annatto, licorice and bilberry aimed at treating glaucoma; extracts of green tea aimed at lowering intraocular pressure; and components intended to increase blood flow to the eye, either an isoflavone or a water-soluble carotenoid, such as crocetin or crocin. (PCT Patent Application WO 01/85183)

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is produced by incubating milk with kefir grains, which results in a relatively stable but specific balance of lactic acid bacteria and yeast held together by a matrix of polysaccharides. Kefir is unlike yoghurt in that the milk undergoes a dual fermentation process under the action of both lactic acid bacteria and yeast. Now, researchers at McGill University in Canada have patented a kefir product they claim has potent antioxidant activity.

According to the results of a small-scale study, the product is effective in reducing plasma lipid peroxidation and plasma tumour necrosis factor-alpha concentrations when a daily dose of 500ml of kefir is consumed. A further patent describes the use of kefir extracts for their anti-carcinogenic potential. The extracts are made by removing both the bacteria and yeast using ultra- or nanofiltration. (PCT Patent Applications WO 01/95917 and WO 01/97820)

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