The supplement is based on a fiber molecule, alpha-cyclodextrin, branded as FBCx (fat binding complex), first discovered and developed by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. The fiber, a six glucose unit molecule, has unique fat binding properties.
“It’s derived from grain. The actual structure of this molecule is unique in that it allows the fiber to form a stable, nondigestible complex with dietary fat,” Jeff McHarg, managing director for North America for SOHO Flordis, told NutraIngredients-USA.
Binding fat with the side effects
At first glance, the method by which FBCx can help consumers cut absorbed calories bears a superficial resemblance to the way the technology behind Olestra was supposed to work. Both approaches seek to help consumer manage their weight by preventing the digestion of a certain percentage of ingested fat molecules. But the resemblance stops there, McHarg said.
Olestra was an example of a "fat substitute" that had some reported side effects of abdominal cramping and loose stools. Then there were the lipase inhibitors, (such as tetrahydrolipstatin) that include commercialized products such as Orlistat, Xenical and Alli.and its associated oral forms, “They acted on the enzyme lipase that is crucial to fat digestion and ingestion,” McHarg said. The technology worked; the calories in the fat were not taken up fully by the body. But the side effects sank the idea. Free fat molecules, undigested because there was not enough circulating lipase to break them down, entered the large intestine where the body sought to get rid of it as soon as possible. The resulting diarrhea reported by many consumers proved to be an unacceptable price to pay for a guilt-free serving of potato chips.
FBCx, on the other hand, forms a stable, bound unit with fat molecules, McHarg said. The intestinal tract interprets this complex much as it would any other undigestible plant fiber such as cellulose. Other fibers do this as well, but McHarg said FBCx exhibits a game-changing difference.
“In general terms all fibers can combine with fat at a 1:1 ratio,” he said. “FBCx can combine at the impressive ratio of 1:9.”
And, McHarg said, research shows the ingredient has preference for binding with the least desirable fats first, the saturated and trans fats.
“Two grams of FBCx per fat-containing meal translates to a healthy weight loss of about 5 pounds a month,” he said.
A two month, double-blind, placebo controlled study with FBCx showed a statistically significant reduction of weight, total cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol levels and increased insulin sensitivity. And animal and in vitro studies showed that rats exposed to alpha-cyclodextrin (FBCx) in the active group weighed less and had lower body fat content. FBCx was also shown to significantly reduce triglycerides and leptin, while increasing insulin sensitivity and fecal fat excretion.
Soft launch, or relaunch?
The supplement form of the ingredient received a soft launch at the Expo West trade show in early March, McHarg said. It’s really more of a relaunch, though, as the Wayne State researchers, who have been working with the ingredient for about eight years, tried to bring it to market before without much success.
“They tried to bring it market, and they brought it out as a nutritional supplement. But they are scientists, not marketers. We at SOHO Flordis saw their patents, their research and saw the potential so we acquired the assets of their company,” McHarg said.
Functional food ingredient
But the company’s strategy with Calorease is more to drive consumer awareness of the efficacy of FBCx than it is to have a successful supplement brand per se. The big opportunity for the ingredient lies in its potential as a functional food ingredient, McHarg said.
“The chemical attributes of FBCx are interesting because the fiber itself has a low viscosity and is colorless, tasteless and very highly soluble,” he said. The molecule is also stable at high temperatures, he said.
“Could you imagine FBCx in a steak sauce? The opportunities are huge. Some of the world’s largest ingredient buyers for the food and beverage industry have shown interest,” McHarg said.