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Articles from 2008 In November

Nordic Naturals Offers Cod Liver Oil Solutions in Response to Recent Vitamin A and Vitamin D Controversy

In response to the commentary entitled “Cod Liver Oil, Vitamin A Toxicity, Frequent Respiratory Infections, and the Vitamin D Deficiency Epidemic” published on November 11th by 16 well known supplement experts, Nordic Naturals announced today that its cod liver oil products pose no threat or compromise to consumers and actually offer healthy omega fatty acid solutions that are low in natural Vitamin A. According to Karin Yien, MD, Nordic Naturals Chief Medical Advisor, “The issue that is cited by this group is based on the fact that almost all cod liver oil in the market is being supplemented with synthetic or natural Vitamin A, standardized to certain levels, which is why it is assumed that all cod liver oil has high levels of Vitamin A. This is not true for the Nordic Naturals brand. We have always had low, healthy levels of natural Vitamin A in our cod liver oil; consequently, we do not add Vitamin A to any of our cod liver oil products.”

Nordic Naturals offers Arctic Cod Liver Oil made exclusively from Arctic Cod with no fish body oil or synthetic additives included. “Nordic Naturals typically averages 650 - 1500 IU of Vitamin A per serving which falls in the low range compared to other manufacturers’ products that can contain more than 4500 IU,” says Joar Opheim, CEO of Nordic Naturals. “Since we have never added synthetic vitamins to our oils, consumers have felt confident in our brand delivering the desired results without the potential of ingesting too much Vitamin A from this one source.”

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adults as established by the U.S. Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science is 3,000 IU for men and 2,300 IU for women.

For those wishing to increase their intake of Vitamin D, Nordic Naturals offers Arctic-D Cod Liver Oil with added Vitamin D in cholecalciferol form, the natural and most easily absorbed form of Vitamin D. This product offers 1,000 IU of Vitamin D, which has the added benefit of creating a greater balance between Vitamin A and D levels in the diet.

“We want to encourage our retailers and professionals to properly educate their customers and clients on quality standards, sourcing and ingredients contained in Nordic Naturals cod liver oil which distinguishes our brand as superior,” adds Dr. Yien. “For more information, see”

Nordic Naturals is the leader in omega-3 fish oils and EFA blends with exceptional taste, freshness, and purity levels. The company has over 150 different fish oil products, including liquids, soft gels, and children's chewables. The company was recently named the “Top-Rated Supplement Brand” by the 2008 Survey of Vitamin and Supplement Users, receiving two recognitions, #1 Rated Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction and #1 Rated Overall Brand for Consumer Satisfaction throughout 8 different distribution channels. For information, call 800.662.2544 or visit

Frost & Sullivan Recognizes Martek Biosciences for Unique and Customer-Focused Strategies With Customer Value Enhancement Award

This week Frost & Sullivan announced that Martek Biosciences Corporation, creator of the fast-growing life'sDHA(TM) brand of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), is the 2008 recipient of the North American Frost & Sullivan Customer Value Enhancement Award. This award is in recognition of Martek's long-standing, successful customer relationships and innovative marketing and branding initiatives that have helped to establish the company as a leading global provider of DHA omega-3 products.

Martek's solid research pipeline along with strategic alliances and a strong intellectual property strategy has further cemented its superiority in the market. Martek has developed a strong intellectual property position globally by strategically developing multiple layers of patent protection. Martek's patent portfolio includes more than 700 granted patents and pending applications worldwide. Its strong patent portfolio has ensured that it is the only source of DHA and ARA used in infant formula sold in the United States.

"The company has successfully established significant and long-term supply agreements and has capitalized on its strength of being a leading supplier of vegetarian DHA and arachidonic acid (ARA)," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Arthi V. "Martek has signed multi-year sole supplier agreements with a number of leading infant formula manufacturers to further strengthen its relationships with key customers."

Martek has also focused on comprehensive marketing initiatives, making extensive use of various media and consumer outreach strategies to promote its brand, life'sDHA. This has led to double digit growth in consumer awareness of the life'sDHA brand since the brand was launched in 2006. As a result, Martek is one of the few companies providing high-value nutritional products to successfully secure a brand presence through the appearance of its life'sDHA logo on numerous consumer packaged goods that are household names.

life'sDHA is derived directly from microalgae, a renewable, sustainable source of DHA that does not deplete ocean resources and is produced entirely in the U.S. in a FDA-inspected facility. Today, life'sDHA is a trusted source of DHA omega-3 found in numerous foods, beverages and supplements for people of all ages. It is also the only source of DHA used in U.S. infant formula and is included in more than 99 percent of all formulas on the U.S. market. In addition, life'sDHA is found in more than 200 brands of infant formula, nutritional supplements and functional foods sold in over 75 countries worldwide. Martek has received approvals for the use of life'sDHA in wide range of foods and supplements in Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and Canada.

"life'sDHA has exceptional sensory characteristics; it does not adversely affect a product's sensory properties such as taste or odor," says Arthi. "It also has an outstanding shelf life and is highly concentrated, so less is needed."

Martek's innovation and experience in the production, refinement and formulation of high quality DHA omega-3 products has established it as a leader in customer value enhancement. Martek develops close working relationships with its customers and provides personalized technical support to ensure the highest quality finished products by offering a range of services, including an experimental food development laboratory, small-scale food production capabilities, sensory analysis and chemical analytical support.

This has resulted in exceptional customer retention and a rapidly growing customer base. This year, Martek announced the launch of the 100th food and beverage product incorporating life'sDHA. The ingredient was first introduced in soy beverages, yogurt and yogurt drinks in 2006, and the range of products into which life'sDHA has been added now includes milk, fruit juices, baby foods, sushi, nutrition bars and cheese. This year alone, the brand expanded further into cooking oils, bread, butter, frozen foods, smoothies, meat, meat alternatives and more. In addition, many of Martek's customers continue to introduce follow-on products based on the success of their initial product launches.

Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the company that has best demonstrated the ability to expand its customer base, while maintaining its existing customer base, with more innovative value creation and enhancement strategies than competing vendors. This Award recognizes the company's successful sales entry, customer acquisition and service strategies, and the degree to which those strategies have met customers' stated needs and requirements. Such strategies are expected to significantly improve customer interaction and contribute to their satisfaction.

Frost & Sullivan's Best Practices Awards recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.

About Martek Biosciences Corporation
Martek Biosciences Corporation is a leader in the innovation and development of DHA omega-3 products that promote health and wellness through every stage of life. The company produces life'sDHA, a sustainable and vegetarian source of DHA omega-3, for use in foods, beverages, infant formula, and supplements, and life'sARA(TM) (arachidonic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid, for use in infant formula. For more information on Martek Biosciences, visit For a complete list of life'sDHA products, visit

About Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, partners with clients to accelerate their growth. The company's TEAM Research, Growth Consulting and Growth Team Membership(TM) empower clients to create a growth-focused culture that generates, evaluates and implements effective growth strategies. Frost & Sullivan employs over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment community from more than 30 offices on six continents. For more information about Frost & Sullivan's Growth Partnership Services, visit

ORGC to Substantially Increase Product Line

Organic Alliance, Inc. (Pink Sheets: ORGC), announces that during last week's trip to the Organic Expo in Mexico City the company found a number of new Organic produce crops for shipment next year including cucumbers, bananas and a large citrus supply. This will complement the AvocadoMan Brand acquisition which the company hopes to close before the end of the year. Recently, the company announced a letter of intent with AvocadoMan Brand.

"AvocadoMan is a well established organic brand that is currently in stores across Canada. Last year the AvocadoMan brand generated 12 million dollars in revenue and the brand is currently tracking more than two times last year's revenues," according to the brand's Senior Executive, Stavros Daskos.

"We are thrilled to take over the AvocadoMan brand, and to have a Sales Vice President as experienced as Josh join our Company," said Tom Morrison, Chairman/CEO of Organic Alliance. "The brand has strong relationships with many grocery stores and foodservice accounts in Canada and should continue to grow and prosper in our new Alliance."

About Organic Alliance:
Organic Alliance plans to become one of the world's leading providers of USDA certified organic foods and crops to many of the nation's leading consumer package companies and food processors, as well as some of the largest national food grocery chains out there. Organic Alliance sources top quality, safe tested and certified organic produce at the source -- prior to customer shipment, utilizing USDA certification in conjunction with the in-house OAI Quality Team. Company CEO Tom Morrison was CEO of Superior Farming, formerly one of the largest corporate farms and organic farming operations in the world before being acquired by Sun World International and later Black Diamond Capital Management. For more information, please visit

'Safe Harbor' Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: This release includes forward-looking statements intended to qualify for the safe harbor from liability established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements which address actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in forward-looking statements. These statements are made on the basis of management's views and assumptions. As a result, there can be no assurance that management's expectations will necessarily come to pass. These forward-looking statements generally can be identified by phrases such as management 'believes,' 'expects,' 'anticipates,' 'foresees,' 'forecasts,' 'estimates' or other words or phrases of similar import. Similarly, statements in this release that describe the Company's business strategy, outlook, objectives, plans, intentions or goals also are forward-looking statements. All such forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements.

Delicious Living

December 1, 2008

New ingredients

Honey CrystalsNonsticky honey crystals
Certified-organic and kosher Honey Crystals offer manufacturers new formulation opportunities in any food product that contains honey. Made by Mama Healthy, Honey Crystals can enhance recipes without altering the water content or consistency of the existing recipe. Manufacturers can replace sugar 1:1 with dry free-flowing Honey Crystals, without a sticky mess, the company says. The manufacturing plant has been certified by Quality Assurance International.

ChiaBenexia chia seed
Proprietary Nutritionals is now offering the only quality-certified chia seed available on the market, grown under Good Agricultural Practices (GLOBAL-GAP), and selected under GMP and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) international quality standards, the company reports. Chia is one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains high levels of fibre, protein, calcium, vitamins and other minerals. Antioxidant-rich, it has a higher ORAC value than fresh blueberries.

Ceramide for cosmeceuticals
Cactus Botanics has launched its raw material Ceramide for use in the cosmeceuticals industry. Ceramides are a family of lipid molecules composed of sphinghosine and fatty acids, concentrated in cell membranes. Ceramides, along with other lipids, comprise sphingomyelin, one of the major lipids in the lipid bilayer. Supplementing with Ceramide helps nourish and keep pliant the lipid bilayer of skin cells, resulting in a more youthful appearance, the company says.

Ancient GrainsGrain nutrients in powdered blend
AncienTrim is a new technology introduced by FutureCeuticals that delivers ancient-grain nutrition in a formulation-friendly powdered blend. It contains amaranth, barley, buckwheat, durum, millet, chia, quinoa and spelt. Traditionally, these grains have had limited applications in anything but cereals and baked goods due to texture and dispersibility concerns. AncienTrim overcomes these formulation challenges, however, due to a patented production process developed by the USDA in co-operation with FutureCeuticals, the company says. The process creates a dispersible, hydrophilic powder rich in grain amino acids and fibre that incorporates easily into smoothies, soups, pasta, beverages, bars and baked goods. AncienTrim is available in conventional, baking-grade and organic formats, as well as a gluten-free formula.

Rosemary-extract line
Avatar Corp's new ProEssential Natural Antioxidants line features rosemary extracts, containing both standard and deodorised ProEssential Rosemary Extracts for food and personal-care applications. Deodorised extracts provide shelf-life extension of foods, such as edible and frying oils, light-coloured mayonnaise, dressings, sauces, marinades, light-coloured confectionery, and bakery fillings — without adding taste, odour or colour. Illinois-based Avatar is a supplier of ProKote conventional and organic-certified lubricants and release agents for the baking industry.

Amla-PureOrganic amla extract
California-based Avesthagen, a leading supplier of Ayurvedic extracts, has launched Amla-Pure, a certified organic amla extract. Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, has long been reputed for its antioxidant benefits, and is widely used in India for jams, syrups, jellies, candied confections, pickled preserves, relishes and tomato sauce. Unlike traditional amla extracts made from dried fruit, AmlaPure is made from fresh, organically grown fruit and is naturally rich in tannins, gallotannins, polyphenols and other bioactives. AmlaPure is standardised to two per cent natural Vitamin C.

Exotic fruits ingredient
VitaTropic is the newest addition to Cyvex Nutrition's portfolio of proprietary antioxidants for dietary supplements. VitaTropic is a high-ORAC tropical extract of exotic fruits noni, açai, mangosteen and pomegranate with ORAC 6,000 mcmole TE/g and 40 per cent polyphenols.

Functional ingredients industry people news

Research-projects manager
Marigot added Denise O'Gorman, PhD, to its technical team. As research-projects manager, she will work to improve the scientific understanding of the health benefits of Aquamin, the company's multi- mineral ingredient. The news follows a period of sustained investment in clinical research to establish the potential benefits of Aquamin for bone health and sports nutrition. O'Gorman is a biotechnology graduate from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and completed her PhD in biochemistry at the University of County Cork.

Alan TurnerUK office hires chief
Niutang Chemical's new office in the UK is being run by Alan Turner, who recently joined the company as sales director for Niutang UK. Turner's credentials include previous employment with DSM's anti-infectives and speciality chemicals products, and aspartame producers Holland Sweetener. The goal of Niutang's new office is to expand its share in sucralose, aspartame and folic acid in this important geographical market. The company has its headquarters and manufacturing base in Changzhou, China, and has a base for mainland Europe in Rotterdam, as well as an office in California.

Account manager at Lonza
Lonza hired Stacy Baca for the position of western region account manager, food and nutrition. She will also manage the implementation of sales strategies and provide support to marketing efforts to achieve business team objectives.

Ed PeetSVZ hires new CEO
SVZ International appointed Ed Peet chief executive officer and member of the executive board of Cosun. Peet has been working in the international food industry since 1971. In his former position he was a member of the board of GBI Holding (formerly known as DSM Bakery and Gist-Brocades), and he was plant manager at Meneba and manager of procurement at Unilever and Hero.

Emails spark panic over 'ban' in Denmark

Authorities say messages about supplements have no basis in reality

Danish health officials were forced to issue reassurances to consumers after a series of viral emails wrongly said Europe was poised to ban or restrict the sale of some vitamin supplements.

Thousands of Danes received emails warning: "The EU will ban natural vitamins," and: "In the future, you can only buy your vitamins at the pharmacy," said the Danish Medicines Agency and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

The missives asked recipients to click and sign a protest against the EU 'policy.' They claimed the EU was implementing legislation that meant natural vitamins and minerals supplements would in the future only be available by prescription at a pharmacy, and that many natural vitamins and minerals would be banned altogether.

The emails said that beginning in January 2010, stores in Denmark would only be able to offer dietary supplements containing ineffective levels of predominantly synthetic vitamins and minerals.

News of the emails appeared in Danish newspapers, on television and on websites, sparking a nationwide scare. Officials described their content as a "frightening message [that] has no basis in reality."

"It is pulled out of thin air that new EU legislation is on its way that will restrict consumers' access to vitamins and food supplements, and that these products will only be available on prescription at pharmacies in future," said Jens Therkel Jensen, deputy head of the nutrition division at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. "[We] would know if such legislation was on its way, which I can reject point blank."

"It is worrying that some people actively disseminate false information, thereby setting off a scare campaign," added Jytte Lyngvig, chief executive officer of the Danish Medicines Agency.

Supplement, vegetarian style

That fish oil comes from fish is no surprise, but the other animal-derived ingredients hidden in supplements can be hard to detect. Check out these vegetarian alternatives to traditional ingredients.

Vegetarian option: Borage and evening-primrose oils; vegetarian DHA

What they do: Natural oils reduce inflammation; DHA harvested from algae balances hormones and nourishes the brain.

Dose: 360 mg oil daily, divided; 120 mg DHA daily

What they replace: Fish oil.

Vegetarian option: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

What it does: Sulfur compounds from green plants and algae stimulate cartilage growth and mitigate joint pain.

Dose: 1-3 grams daily

What it replaces: Glucosamine sulfate made from shrimp, lobster, and crab shells.

Vegetarian option: Modified vegetable cellulose capsules

What they do: Smooth casings made from structural plant fibers make pills easy to swallow.

What they replace: Gelatin capsules made from cow-bone collagen.

Vegetarian option: Red yeast rice

What it does: Monacolin compounds may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Dose: 2,400 mg daily

What it replaces: Chitosan from shrimp and crab shells.

Pecans for breakfast

I've been enjoying nutritious, delectable pecans all month, thanks to a packet sent by the Georgia Pecan people (November is their big month). Here's my favorite breakfast that keeps me going well into the lunch hour: Whisk 1 egg and a little milk in a shallow bowl, then add cooked brown rice, about 1/3 cup or so (not so much that it's thick). Top with a handful of broken pecans, chopped red apple, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cover with another dish and microwave for 2+ minutes, until the egg is softly cookedy. Super delicious, healthy, and satiating.

Also, for Thanksgiving, I made this recipe for Brussels Sprouts in Sage Butter, with toasted pecans, and it was a big hit ... even for people who might otherwise sneer at brussels sprouts!

If I only had a brain (enhancer)

Joel Bernard/MasterfileUnlike the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, we have brains. And, unlike the 'One-Hoss Shay' of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem, our brains can break down or slow down before the rest of our parts do the same. David A Mark, PhD, investigates the leading natural bioactives in supplements and foods that beneficially influence cognitive health

Dementia is the umbrella term used to describe symptoms of a large group of illnesses that causes a progressive decline of mental function. The most common diagnosed conditions are Alzheimer's disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), combined Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, and Lewy Body dementia. AD is the most common cause in North America and Europe, but vascular dementia plus mixed AD/VaD are dominant in some eastern Asian countries.1,2,3,4,5

Given the combination of the baby-boom effect and the increased risk of vascular dementia due to consequences of obesity and diabetes, the prevalence of dementia in the US is projected to at least double by 2030, barring effective prevention and/or treatment.

Supplements and functional foods
More than 40 supplements ingredients and foods have been identified as tentatively having beneficial effects on cognitive functions, with some of them specifically targeting the prevention or treatment of dementia. Here's a sampling:

Resveratrol gets hyped for being the polyphenol in red wine responsible for the 'French Paradox' of how the French as a population eat rich foods, smoke cigarettes, don't exercise and, yet, do not develop heart disease. Less well known is the correlation between red wine and reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Population studies in France and Italy reported 25-80 per cent reductions in risk for dementia or Alzheimer's disease for moderate consumption of red wine, compared to those who did not drink alcohol.6,7,8

Is resveratrol, then, responsible for both heart and brain benefits attributed to red wine? In his book, The Red Wine Diet, Roger Corder, professor at William Harvey Research Institute in London, thinks probably not.9 The polyphenol content of red wines is in the range of 1,500-3,500mg/litre. Of this, resveratrol makes up 1-5mg/litre, or less than one per cent. Red-wine health benefits for heart and brain are a consequence of drinking one to three glasses of wine a day (at higher intakes, the alcohol damage outweighs any polyphenol benefit). The prime suspect for the red-wine effects is a class of flavonoid polyphenols known as proanthocyanidins (PACs). Foods rich in PACs include red wine, dark-coloured fruits and berries, cocoa-containing foods, hazelnuts, pecans, green tea, certain types of beans, and some spices.10,11

Whither resveratrol? Although not the wine effects' molecule, resveratrol research holds tremendous promise.8 Resveratrol extracted from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is available in the US as a dietary-supplement ingredient. As of publication of this article there are no human resveratrol efficacy trials for any health effect in the published scientific literature. There are, however, nine resveratrol clinical trials listed at Two studies, at Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM), are investigating resveratrol for Alzheimer's disease. MCW is using the Longevinex brand resveratrol-containing product to deliver 215mg/day resveratrol. MSSM does not specify product or dose. Results from both trials are expected in late 2010.

Pre-clinical studies are supportive. In various cell lines known to produce amyloid-beta peptides (Abeta, which leads to Alzheimer's), incubation with resveratrol, but not quercetin or catechin, reduces Abeta concentrations in a dose-dependent relationship. The mechanism appeared to be via increased Abeta degradation.12 Mouse models of Alzheimer's disease also demonstrate improvements with resveratrol.13 Resveratrol and resveratrol-like drugs in development activate sirtuins, a class of regulating enzymes implicated in prolonging lifespan and various age-related functions in in vitro and animal models. The drug company to watch is Sitris Pharmaceuticals (, with several resveratrol-like drugs in clinical trials.

L-theanine is a non-nutrient amino acid found in tea leaves. Most reviews describe it as a component of green tea, and estimate intake at 25-40mg/cup of tea. However, a recent analytical report confirmed L-theanine in oolong and black teas as well. Across all types of tea, the L-theanine content ranged from 40-300mg/100g dried tea leaf, which would result in an estimated intake range of 1-9mg/cup.14 A person drinking four to five cups of tea a day could be getting 30-40mg/day.

Synthesised L-theanine has been evaluated in several clinical trials. Doses of 50-200mg have been shown to increase brain alpha waves and result in a relaxed state.15,16,17,18 Healthy subjects performing a stressful mental task reported less stress and had a lower heart rate during the test if they ingested 200mg L-theanine before the test.19

There is little overlap in claimed mechanism of action between the dietary supplements and drugs targeting dementia
Nonhuman research links L-theanine much more directly to brain health and function. One proposed mechanism is that L-theanine either inhibits production or blocks receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate, 20,21 akin to mementine, an FDA-approved receptor-blocker drug for Alzheimer's disease. There is also in vitro and animal evidence that L-theanine reduces the risk of cell death subsequent to temporary oxygen deprivation. 22,23 In one rat experiment, L-theanine significantly prevented the impairment of memory. 23 This mechanism would apply to protection from vascular dementia.

Selenium is the favoured antioxidant nutrient of the moment. In theory, cumulative free-radical damage, possibly preventable by antioxidant nutrients such as selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, is involved in neuron death in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. On autopsy, brains of people who had AD are characterised by increased lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation and DNA oxidation. Molecules concomitant with oxidative inflammation are also present.24

A three-year vitamin E trial (2000IU/day) assessed the progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease. There was no reported benefit.25 But, a selenium epidemiological study of 2,000 mainland Chinese subjects older than 65 years reported a strong correlation between selenium status as measured by nail content, blood content and diet analysis, against six of seven tests for cognitive function.26 One weakness of this study is that even the highest fifth of the subjects had dietary intakes even close to (but still below) the US RDA of 55mcg/day for selenium. Actual intakes in the US are higher. NHANES 2001-02 pegged median intakes for adult females at 89mcg/day and males at 125mcg/day.27

Results from a very sizeable human prospective study will not be available for several years. SELECT is the acronym for a seven to 12 year, 35,000-subject trial of selenium (200mcg), vitamin E (400IU), or both as a means of preventing prostate cancer. A subset of 10,400 men who were older than 60 years at the onset of the study is also being tracked for development of dementia. The trial, known as PREADVISE, is described at Results are not expected until 2013. [NOTE: In October, the SELECT trial was stopped, after five years, because researchers were finding no benefit and a non-significant trend toward risk of cancer and diabetes.]

Lignans are a class of phyto-oestrogens found in flaxseeds, and in lesser amounts in whole grains and other foods. Flax and spruce-tree lignans are available as ingredients in dietary supplements.

While most of the literature is focused on helping maintain breast or prostate health, there is an interesting Netherlands study published in 2005 that assessed cognitive function. Just less than 400 healthy women, average age 66 years, completed a dietary intake survey and a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Intact cognitive function (MMSE >/= 26 on a 0 to 30 scale) was reported for 77 per cent of the women. Higher intake of dietary lignans, but not isoflavones, was associated with a higher probability of intact cognitive function. The correlation remained after adjusting for diet and lifestyle variables known or suspected to have an impact on cognition (eg, education level, alcohol, tobacco, fatty-fish intake).28

The median lignan intake in this study was 0.62mg/day, with only the top 25 per cent exceeding 0.86mg/day.28 Other studies have reported similar or slightly higher dietary intakes. Flaxseed and lignan products used in clinical trials for other indications typically deliver 50-100mg/day to have an impact. This begs the question as to how differences in the comparatively low intakes of dietary lignan could affect development of dementia, unless by an entirely different mechanism than proposed for breast and prostate diseases.

Blueberries improve memory, strength, balance and co-ordination — in old rats. Which is fine, if you are an old rat. In several studies conducted by James Joseph, PhD; Barbara Shukitt-Hale; and their coworkers at the USDA-ARS Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 19-month-old rats fed blueberries for two months showed improvements in memory, strength, balance and co-ordination in tests such as the Morris Water Maze, rod walking, wire suspension, and plank walking (think of a testing lab set up as a miniature Cirque du Soleil, but without the music and costumes).29,30,31

The memory gains have been confirmed by a different research group, and similar results have been demonstrated with aged rats fed Concord grape juice, and with mice fed grape-seed extract.32,33,34 Blueberries, dark grapes and grape seeds contain a wide range of polyphenolic molecules, including proanthocyanidins.

Although the mechanisms involved in the behavioural deficits of ageing remain to be determined, researchers suggest that cumulative oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and changes in the production of neuroprotective proteins all contribute to the loss.31,35 Helen Kim and her co-workers at the University of Alabama reported that in the brains of rats fed grape-seed extract, the direction of change of protein expression (either increased or decreased) was opposite to the direction associated with Alzheimer's disease.35

Enough about rats and mice — what about humans? We should have a hint soon. Robert Krikorian, University of Cincinnati, recently completed but has not yet published a small, 12-week study comparing placebo, blueberry juice and Concord grape juice on memory performance in >64-year-old subjects who have mild cognitive impairment.36 Earlier research has shown that a blueberry meal resulted in significant increases in plasma antioxidant capacity, so it appears that blueberry polyphenols enter and are active in the blood circulation.37

Omega-3 fatty acids, according to a growing body of scientific evidence from biological, observational and epidemiological studies, have a protective effect against dementia.38,39 The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) are well-known constituents of marine fish oil. These omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be essential to the developing brains in infants and children, and now are appearing to be essential to maintaining brain health as we age. Greg Cole and his colleagues at UCLA have used animal models to show that DHA reduces Abeta accumulation.40 Researchers with the Framingham Heart Study used nine years of subject tracking to estimate that people in the top 25 per cent of plasma DHA levels had a 47 per cent reduction in the risk of developing dementia. To be in this top 25 per cent, the people in the study were consuming an average of 180mg/day of DHA via 2.9 fish servings per week. The bottom 25 per cent were at 90mg/day and 1.3 servings/week.41

As a bonus to the dementia results, reviews suggest that omega-3 fatty acids also have an antidepressive effect. A meta-analysis of 10 placebo-controlled trials with a combined 'n' of 329 patients reported a significant antidepressant effect of omega-3 fatty acids.42 A recent population study linked the dementia and depression effects: for 1,214 non- demented study participants, aged about 75 years and followed for four years, a higher plasma EPA concentration was associated with a 31 per cent lower risk of developing dementia; the reduction of risk was even greater in the subset of patients with diagnosed depression.43

Vitamin D & calcium in combination received massive negative press coverage in May 2007, as a result of a conference presentation by Martha Payne and co-investigators from Duke University and the University of North Carolina. Elderly subjects were examined by brain MRI. Higher vitamin-D and calcium intakes (as determined by food-intake questionnaires) were associated with increased brain-lesion volume. Brain lesions are associated with cognitive dysfunction, dementia, stroke and depression. The authors hypothesised that the nutrients could be promoting dietary-calcium absorption and subsequently calcification of blood vessels.44

In this study the highest vitamin-D intake from diet plus supplements was 1,014IU/day. The average for subjects with a high brain-lesions load was 355IU, and for subjects with low-lesion load, 326IU. The difference between the groups was statistically significant but numerically only a modest eight per cent difference. The authors acknowledge that there was no attempt to quantify sun exposure — which causes vitamin D synthesis in the skin — or measure serum vitamin D.44

The results were unexpected and do not appear to jibe with the main body of scientific literature on vitamin D. Recommended vitamin-D intake for people over 70 years is 600IU. If anything, there is a growing consensus that the RDA should be increased to 1,000IU. Two recent reviews defined serum vitamin-D levels of >75nmol/L as desirable, and estimated that intakes of >1,000IU/day are needed to move the majority of Americans to this range.45,46

According to the DRIs, abnormally elevated serum calcium — and thus the risk of calcification of blood vessels —?was seen after three months at 3,800IU/day but not at 2,400 IU/day. Thus the tolerable upper intake level of 2,000IU was set to be below the lowest known effect.47 In opposition to the negative effect reported by Payne, Wilkins reported in 2006 that in 80 elderly subjects, either healthy or with mild Alzheimer's disease, vitamin-D deficiency as determined by blood levels was associated with low mood and impairment on two of four measures of cognitive performance.48 A larger study (n=225) of Alzheimer's patients found vitamin D-sufficient patients to score better on the Mini-Mental State Examination compared to vitamin-insufficient patients.49

Prospective studies are needed. Alzheimer's patients often have very low serum vitamin D, but that is more likely to be a result of low vitamin-D intake and no sunlight exposure rather than evidence that the deficiency is contributing to the disease.50 It is clear that consequences of vitamin-D insufficiency include muscle wasting (sarcopenia), loss of strength, weight loss, and increased risk of injury from falls.45,46,51,52,53 Johnson notes that accelerated weight loss precedes diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.54 Theories implicate a direct effect via vitamin-D receptors in muscle cells and an indirect effect via preventing elevated parathyroid hormone levels, but direct neurological and neuromotor consequences of vitamin-D insufficiency warrant investigation.

David A Mark, PhD, is president of dmark consulting LLC, a Boston-area science consulting firm. His 25 years of industry R&D experience includes functional foods, dietary supplements and medical nutrition products.

St. John's wortMechanisms — and Ingredients of Interest
The functional ingredients and foods described in this article are a short selection from the litany of nutrients, foods and compounds, touted as having an effect on brain function. Here is a longer list, loosely sorted by mechanism.


Grape seed
Coenzyme Q10
Red wine
Tea or EGCG from tea
Tree nuts
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Alpha-lipoic acid
Coenzyme Q10
Omega-3 fatty acids
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Gotu cola
St. John's wort

Vitamins vs. pillsThe race is on: Supplements vs drugs
The pharmaceutical industry has not missed the boat on bringing products to market for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Sales of five FDA-approved drugs already exceed $2 billion dollars annually and are growing rapidly. For drug development, treatment is far more attractive than prevention, as the latter requires trials on the order of three to seven years and 1,000 to 5,000 individuals to be adequately powered for statistical analysis.1

Interestingly, there is little overlap in claimed mechanism of action between the dietary supplements and drugs targeting dementia, nor much thought that co-treatment with supplements might improve drug functionality. Drugs target treatment for AD-related changes to neurotransmitters or accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides. Many of the food and supplement products target antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vascular-health mechanisms making them more attractive to preventing vascular dementia (VaD) rather than treating AD. VaD is 50 per cent of all dementias in some eastern Asian countries.2,3

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept or Exelon have been approved by the FDA for mild, moderate and severe Alzheimer's disease (AD). This class of drugs was developed based on observations that people with AD and VaD are deficient in acetylcholine — a central nervous system neurotransmitter. Initial FDA approval was in 1996.

NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor blockers are another class of FDA-approved drugs for AD. NMDA blockers guard against over-excitement of nerve cell NMDA receptors by neurotransmitter glutamate. Memantine (marketed under various brand names) was approved by the FDA in 2003. Other NMDA blockers are in development.

Slowing or stopping the accumulation of amyloid beta (Abeta) peptides in amyloid plaques in the brains of people with AD is a major drug target. Two drugs, Alzhemed and Flurizan, are expected to achieve FDA approval in 2009. Many other anti-Abeta drugs are in development.

There is conflicting evidence whether statin drugs, prescribed to lower blood cholesterol, provide any benefit for Alzheimer's disease. Clinical trials have reported both positive and negative results. Dr Benjamin Wolozin hypothesises that statins that can cross the blood-brain barrier, such as simvastatin, are more likely to be beneficial. Results from two major clinical trials on statins and AD (CLASP, LEADe) are expected in late 2008. Conclusive evidence for an anti-dementia effect of statins would not carry over to supplement- or diet-lowering of cholesterol.


1. Pfeifer M, et al. Effects of a long-term vitamin D and calcium supplementation on falls and parameters of muscle function in community-dwelling older individuals. Osteoporos Int 2008 (in press).
2. Jellinger KA. The pathology of "vascular dementia": a critical update. J Alzheimers Dis 2008;14:107-123.
3. Roman GC. Facts, myths, and controversies in vascular dementia. J Neuro Sci 2004;226:49-52.

Select suppliers: bringing you ingredients to entertain the brain

Artemis International
Standardized Nutritionals line includes a range of berry extracts, fruit powders and concentrates. Recently formed a co-marketing partnership with Linnea.

This krill-oil supplier has a distribution agreement with Enzymotec to supply an alternative to fish-sourced EPA/DHA.


BioFlaxElite is a branded combination of flax with beta-glucan. Offers a full EFA line from fish, flax, borage, evening primrose, blackcurrant, perilla and CLA.

Botanic Oil Innovations
Proprietary blends of cold-pressed seed oils and flours are rich in antioxidants to address neural health and much more.

Chemi Nutra
SerinAid PhosphatidylSerine (PS) is also part of OmegaAid PS, a combination product with DHA and EPA with PS.

Cypress Systems
SelenoExcell brand high-selenium yeast is a high-potency (1,200mg/g), 100 per cent organically bound selenium yeast product. It formulates well with capsules, tablets, hard gels or soft gels.

Cyvex Nutrition
Biovinca brand vinpocetine, Biovin whole-grape extract, CranLife cranberry extract, and PomActiv pomegranate extracts highlight a range of branded ingredients.

Denomega 100 and Denomega Powder are natural taste- and odour-free omega-3 oils from food-quality cod liver. They are finding a home in baked goods, dairy, beverages, margarines and spreads, fish, and meat products. Denotaste CLO is for supplements.

World's largest supplier can source resveratrol and most other ingredients.

Sharp-PS; Sharp-PS Silver, a concentrated blend of PS with DHA; Sharp-PS Gold, with PS and omega-3s. Crill is phospholipids-based and richer in DHA than krill oil.

Offers EPA and DHA concentrates for condition-specific formulations. Its Mood & Mind Health has high amounts of EPA.

Fluxome Sciences
Resveratrol is made by a fermentation process, which ensures a pure, white, crystalline powder. Suitable for supplements, functional foods, cosmetics and as a pharmaceutical ingredient.

Neuravena wild green-oat extract promotes mental health, cognitive function and aids stress-coping abilities.

Global dairy-foods and nutritional-ingredients group recently acquired Pizzey's Nutritionals, which produces omega-3 ingredients derived from flaxseed.

A world leader in identification, development and production of active principles derived from plants, including grape-seed extract.

Kyowa Hakko
Cognizin brand citicoline changes brain chemistry and activity in certain areas of the brain, enhancing attention, memory, mood, focus and concentration.

Marco Hi-Tech
Cranberry extracts and solids headline a large suite of ingredients that also includes green-tea extracts.

Ocean Nutrition Canada
Meg-3 omega-3 fish powder for foods uses a patented micro-encapsulation technology, Powder-loc, allowing taste- and odour-free incorporation into foods. Various Meg-3 concentrates are available for supplements.

Ocean Spray
King of the cranberries offers juice, sauces, craisins and produce — and not just cranberries, either.

Omega Protein Corporation
OmegaPure refined fish oil is derived from menhaden, rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

MegaNatural BP is a patent-pending grape-seed extract. MegaNatural Gold Grape Seed Extract guarantees a minimum 90 per cent polyphenols. Other brands include MegaNatural GSKE, GSKE040 grape extract, MegaNatural red-wine concentrate and grape-pomace extract.

SeleniumSelect contains a minimum of 40 per cent elemental selenium.

Taiyo International
Suntheanine brand L-theanine was the pioneer in supplying this amino acid, which promotes relaxation without drowsiness.

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44. Sato
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