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New test aims to measure 'wellness' via metabolic state, developer says

By Hank Schultz , 03-Dec-2013

Nutraceutical technology development firm Health Enhancement Products Inc. has a new urine test in field trials that will measure a participant’s ‘wellness’ level via biomarkers for oxidative stress, the company announced recently.

The trial for the test—called the Wellness Profile—is being run under the aegis of HEPI subsidiary WellMetris LLC and is being conducted at select Powerhouse Gyms locations.  According to the company, the Wellness Profile is a rapid, non-invasive urine test that gauges the level of oxidative stress, inflammation and antioxidant capacity to arrive at a unique assessment of an individual’s health and metabolic status. The test seeks to measure ‘wellness’ as opposed to diagnosing illness or impairment. The company says it is designed to help shape and monitor the positive metabolic effects of a healthier lifestyle. 

Test fed into exisitng expertise

HEPI has been engaged for several years in evaluating and developing a range of nutraceutical ingredients that can be derived from an algae platform.  That expertise fed directly into the acquisition and development of the new test, said HEPI president and CEO Andrew Dahl.

“We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time working on our bioactive agents.  We’ve been working in the area of oxidative stress, and with that you build up a certain internal expertise of how do you look at and measure these markers,” Dahl told NutraIngredients-USA.

“So then this technology came along and it is basically measuring the same things. The test is scientifically valid.  Test actually works.  It’s kind of amazing looking at how urine profiles change depending on supplementation,” he said.

What does it mean to be 'well?'

Dahl said the test will look at the crux of the nutraceutical marketing problem.  By law, dietary supplements cannot treat disease.  They can support structures and function of the body, and, presumably, help those to be more resilient or work better.  But what does that really mean, and how do you measure it?

“Medicine’s entire focus has been addressed toward malady, disease or impairment.  The way doctors look at you, if you are free of disease or impairment, you’re well. Doctors don’t spend a lot of time trying to optimize you,” Dahl said.

“If you are ‘well,’ what does that really mean? It’s really your metabolic state. People who are operating at peak metabolic efficiency have fewer sick days, better personal productivity, fewer health insurance claims.  There is definite personal, social and economic benefit to being metabolically fit,” he said.

To measure that fitness, the test looks at a range of biomarkers in the urine.  These are selected on several criteria, Dahl said.  They must be relatively stable, present in sufficient quantity and they must show a dynamic range that can be measured in response to supplementation.

Decreasing the 'ick' factor

Making the technology user friendly and relatively cheap is a key part of the development.  It still relies on gathering urine, something not generally high on consumers’ choice of activities.  But the new technology does allow far easier handling on the back end, Dahl said.  Previous tests for measuring oxidative stress were costly and difficult.

“You had to take somebody’s urine or blood and boil it in acid.  Not something you’d want to do at Rite Aid. We took that test and turned it into dry chemistry that uses nothing more than the heat of your urine,” Dahl said.

The field trials will help the company fine tune the approach to make the test more marketable but still keep the cost down, Dahl said.

“We are trying to decrease the ‘ick’ factor. What’s a palatable way to gather the samples? We want to make sure that it’s under $20 per test. Our goal is to align ourselves with a major nutraceutical brand or a major brand of fitness centers or hopefully both and private label ourselves,” he said.

Ultimately, the test could be another step in the growing trend toward personalized nutrition, Dahl said.

“Things like altering your diet, getting more sleep, hydrating yourself better, in a week you can see your profile change. Wouldn’t you like to know that this is actually moving the needle?”

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