Phytochemicals: From Test Tube to Store|
Discovering and discerning the hundreds of plant compounds is the first step in nutraceuticals' long walk to market. The next steps are testing these plant particles to attain consistent, measurable results for human health applications. Like the human genome projectwhere scientists are on the verge of completing the map of all genes in the human bodythe phytochemical world similarly offers great promise in applying newfound knowledge toward tangible, health-promoting products. What are some companies doing with this information? Here are a few cases-in-point.
Anthocyanidins: One company is standardizing juice concentrates and powders for food integration, producing a fruit bar with a delivered dose of anthocyanidins. These phenols are best known as an antioxidant and are helpful for a range of eye issues. They are also of economic importance as pigments and, thus, are used to color fruit juices, wine and some beverages.
Arabinogalactans: A Minnesota company is looking at multiple applications of arabinogalactans derived from the larch tree, including cosmetics, detergents and foods as a soluble fiber source and immune enhancer.
Carotenes: One company is exploring astaxanthinnow mostly used to enhance trout and salmon's pink coloras a therapeutic agent to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Other companies are moving to secure patents on producing astaxanthin from yeast or algae.
Indole-3-Carbinol: Present in broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, I3C has already spawned a next generation: diindolylmethane (DIM). Each DIM molecule is formed by connecting two I3C molecules by a carbon bridge. DIM is naturally formed from I3C during the fermentation or acid digestion of cruciferous vegetables. Introduced in Europe, DIM changes the way a woman responds to hormones, which can change symptoms associated with postmenopausal experiences.
Limonoids: A Canadian research company has filed patents to use limonoids from citrus fruits in both food and supplement form for cholesterol-lowering and anti-cancer effects.
Oils and fatty acids: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will likely accept the Omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as an approved food additive for infant formulas by the end of the year. DHA is important for fetal development and has also been shown to improve infant IQs.