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Dr Oz and Oprah effect sends astaxanthin demand ‘skyrocketing’, claims Cyanotech

By Elaine Watson , 05-Apr-2011

Hawaii-based firm Cyanotech claims demand for astaxanthin - a potent red-colored antioxidant dubbed by some researchers as ‘super vitamin E’ - has “skyrocketed” in recent weeks following heavy exposure on influential TV shows including Dr Oz and Oprah.

Cyanotech, which products astaxanthin from microalgae in Kona, Hawaii, was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA.com after rival Fuji Chemical Industry Co announced plans to double production capacity http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Industry/Fuji-doubles-astaxanthin-capacity-as-global-demand-grows for the nutrient at its BioReal facility in Gustavsberg Sweden.

Cyanotech vice president, sales and marketing Bob Capelli, said: “Since astaxathin was called out on the Dr. Oz show by Dr. Joseph Mercola as the ‘number one supplement you’ve never heard of that you should be taking’, we’ve seen it [demand] skyrocket.

“To date, the most popular areas have been for joint and tendon health; UV protection of skin and ‘beauty from within’ and sports applications. We believe that astaxanthin can become a household word in the next five years.”

Astaxanthin, which exhibited strong free radical scavenging activity and protected cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage, was also recently praised on Oprah by author and dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone and in e-newsletters by “opinion leaders such as The Health Ranger Mike Adams [who described it as the ‘little-known miracle nutrient for inflammation, anti-aging, athletic endurance and more’] and ‘America’s most trusted pharmacist’ Suzy Cohen and others”, added Capelli.

GRAS opens door for food and drink applications

While its focus to date has been on dietary supplements, Cyanotech’s BioAstin-branded astaxanthin would also become “widely sold in functional foods and beverages” in future, predicted Capelli.

“This is a nascent channel for us now. We’ve had limited interest from food and drink companies to date, but we’re now prepared to pursue this channel with GRAS (generally recognized as safe approval) at 1.5 mg per serving, which is 15 times higher than one of our competitors received.”

Cyanotech obtained self-affirmed GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe for use in food and beverage applications) by a panel of experts assembled by GRAS Associates LLC in January, with the accompanying documentation now being scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Competitive climate

While rival Fuji was increasing capacity in Sweden, it has just closed down its US astaxanthin facility in Maui, Hawaii, claiming its Swedish operation was more scalable, while fellow producer Yahama Motors has also closed its production facility in Japan citing “difficulties in achieving profitability” and “limited market size and future growth prospects”, pointed out Capelli.

“Fuji shut down its Maui facility earlier this year and we estimate that [Israeli astaxanthin producer] Algatechnologies [which is increasing capacity this year] can only produce half of what we can at our facility.

“The closure of these facilities [Yamaha, Fuji] further validates that Cyanotech is the worldwide leader in astaxanthin production, technology and marketing.”

While rivals also produced astaxanthin from the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis, they used different production techniques and analytical testing methodologies, he noted.

For example, firms using the Spectrophotometric assay method typically included other carotenoids such as lutein and beta-carotene in results along with chlorophyll and degradation products of astaxanthin such as astacene, leading them to overstate astaxanthin concentrations by as much as 30 percent, he claimed.

“We’ve seen some very unstable products made with other producers’ astaxanthin in the marketplace that had less than half the stated astaxanthin left well before expiration,” he claimed.

While Cyanotech’s production technique meant it was vulnerable to the elements, even freak weather would not compromise production for long, he claimed.

“We can now come back to full production very quickly in the event of serious weather issues. Even if a tsunami hurt our farm dramatically, we could be fully operational in just over a month.”

Structure / function claims

Astaxanthin has primarily been used in the feed industry to make farmed salmon a richer pink color. However, it has recently gained momentum in the human dietary supplements market and is also being promoted as a functional food ingredient following several GRAS applications.

Cyanotech has 17 structure/function associated with its BioAstin astaxanthin covering everything from joint, skin and eye health to healthy immune function, healthy tendons, UV protection for the skin, anti-aging, increased energy, recovery after exercise and a healthy cardiovascular system.

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