Consumer interest in immunity is pandemic

Consumer interest in immunity is pandemic

When the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 virus a global pandemic in June 2009, it pretty much guaranteed that immunity would become a hot consumer segment.

When the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 virus a global pandemic in June 2009, it pretty much guaranteed that immunity would become a hot consumer segment. It was, after all, the first pandemic that had been declared in 41 years.

According to data from SPINS, this is precisely what happened. While sales for "common cold" products in the combined natural and FDM channel (excluding Whole Foods and Walmart) were down 12.5 percent for the 52 weeks ending May 15, sales for "deep immune support" products were up 3.8 percent. The interest in deep immune support was particularly hot among natural channel shoppers — gaining 14.6 percent over that time period.

It seems fitting then that the 2009-2010 winter season would see the arrival of a host of new research and innovations on the ingredients side of the aisle. Among them: two new studies linking Carotech's tocotrienol and Embria's EpiCor to activated immune function; a study validating FAST-C's swift entry into the blood stream; and a German study showing polyphenols' ability to reduce cold symptoms.

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, a study published this July in the Journal of Nutrition found that the daily supplementation of a mixture of the four types of tocotrienol (vitamin E) led to improvements in the T-cell function in old mice.

The study involved dividing young and old mice into two groups: Both age groups received either a normal diet or a diet supplemented with a tocotrienol/soybean oil mixture.

Initial tests showed that lymphocyte proliferation — the ability of immune cells to reproduce — was lower in older mice than their younger counterparts. After six weeks of supplementation, however, lymphocyte proliferation was significantly increased in the older mice who received the tocotrienols. There were no differences observed between young mice groups, said the researchers.

The research was good news for Carotech, whose Tocomin-brand tocotrienol ingredient was used in the study. The company, with offices in Malaysia and New Jersey, is the largest and only GMP-certified tocotrienol producer. "We are proud to be associated with this research at Tufts University," said WH Leong, vice president of Carotech. "This is the first scientific publication that shows tocotrienols enhance T-cell function, especially in old mice, and hence overall immunity. Its effect is more profound when one thinks of the senior population whose immunity is compromised with age."

Tocomin is used mainly in dietary supplement products, under such labels as Vitacost, Jarrow Formulas, Carlson Labs and others.

One epic ingredient
Embria Health Sciences of Iowa launched its immunity ingredient EpiCor in 2005. (Watch a video on the EpiCor story.) Comprised of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and other metabolites, the ingredient touts its ability to activate natural killer (NK) cells to help ward off foreign invaders, as well as activate B cells to support antibody production to combat those pathogens that do survive. The ingredient is also an established antioxidant.

A 2009 clinical trial compared more than 80 healthy individuals who tested positive for seasonal allergies, and were randomised to receive either 500mg EpiCor a day vs. placebo. The 12-week study was conducted in South Dakota when total pollen counts were high.

The EpiCor group showed "statistically significant" reductions in several symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, in particular nasal congestion. Those taking EpiCor also reported significantly less use of rescue medication.

"Biochemical data mirrored the effectiveness observed in the allergy diary and questionnaire," said Larry Robinson, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs for Embria Health Sciences and one of the study's primary researchers. "However, the body's immune system wasn't being depressed, but modulated, as reflected by the fact that subjects taking EpiCor had significantly increased levels of sIgA (showing improved defense against pathogens), with a trend toward reduced IgE."

With approximately 25 percent of the world's population suffering from allergies, the study's results are incredibly relevant, said study co-author and director of research and development Stuart Reeves, PhD. "This study shows that EpiCor has strong potential as an all-natural option for both addressing allergies and balancing the immune system."

The ingredient's benefits in the reduction of cold and flu symptoms were also documented in a 2008 study in the Journal of Urologic Nursing.

Editor's Picks:

Vitamin D: My family of four didn't get sick this winter for the first time — ever. I'm swearing by the mega-doses of vitamin D, 2,000IU per drop in an olive oil base.
Probiotics: Research remains in its infancy, but we're convinced that good health starts in the bowels of the boat, as it were.
Wellmune WGP: This beta-glucan makes the immune system more efficient, which also improves stress resistance and sports recovery. In supps, in drinks — coming soon to a food product near you.

Fast relief
It's not your mom's plain old vitamin C.

In October 2009, the results of a second clinical study on FAST-C were presented to the American College of Nutrition conference. The patent-pending vitamin C ingredient, developed by Scientific Food Solutions (SFS), was found to enter the blood stream in the first 90 minutes after consumption, which is "significantly" faster than a leading premium vitamin C brand. In addition, urinary excretion during the 24 hours after supplementation was slightly less.

This comparative bioavailability clinical trial, a double-blind, randomized crossover study, was conducted at Miami Research Associates. A full-length manuscript detailing both this trial, and the first trial in 2007, has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

FAST-C contains BioPerine, the bioavailability enhancement ingredient from Sabinsa Corp. FAST-C also utilizes Alkemy, a patent-pending blend of all-natural alkalizing GRAS minerals. This yields an acid-neutralized vitamin C formulation, which makes it easier on the stomach.

The ingredient won the 2009 NBJ Scientific Achievement Award, and was one of three finalists for the 2010 NutrAward for the Best New Ingredient at SupplyExpo West. It is sold as an ingredient for dietary supplements.

"FAST-C is the only premium vitamin C formulation that has been shown superior to the leading premium vitamin C in multiple clinical studies in both rate of absorption and whole body retention," said Gretchen Reece, president of SFS. "Our goal has been science before sales; we want to provide ingredients that are innovative, evidence-based, and deliver real benefits."

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