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Potent anti-inflammatory from olive juice bids for functional food and beverage fame

By Elaine Watson , 27-Apr-2012
Last updated the 27-Apr-2012 at 14:56 GMT

A suite of novel functional food and beverage concepts containing Hidrox - a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient from olive juice - is being developed by California-based CreAgri as it seeks to build on its success in the dietary supplements arena.

Hidrox, which comes in powder or liquid form and is rich in free-radical-busting polyphenol hydroxytyrosol, is well-suited to food and beverage applications as it is heat stable.

It is also cost effective as it does not need to be used in large amounts, said CreAgri director of communications Paolo Pontoniere.

Pontoniere was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA after CreAgri struck a deal with leading multi-level-marketing firm Cosway to use Hidrox in a new line of dietary supplements that will debut in Malaysia and Hong Kong and then progress to the US, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.

A natural anti-microbial

CreAgri, which has built up a large body of clinical research around Hidrox in recent years covering everything from cardiovascular to skin health benefits, is pursuing a two-pronged commercial strategy for the ingredient, he said.

“First, we sell it as an ingredient to the supplements sector and we’re talking to manufacturers of foods, beverages and skincare products. We are also talking with some big producers of fresh cut salads, meats and leafy greens about using Hidrox as a natural anti-microbial.

“Second, we're developing our own finished products containing Hidrox. We already have our own Olivenol Plus supplement brand and we are now working on beverages and other products. We are particularly interested in energy type drinks for mental alertness.”

Targeting chronic inflammation

A lot of the buzz around hydroxytyrosol has focused on cardiovascular health following the publication of a positive opinion   from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) supporting claims about olive polyphenols for reducing oxidized LDL cholesterol, an emerging risk factor for atherosclerosis.

There is also a growing number of clinical studies showing olive polyphenols as effective against everything from UVB-induced DNA damage to platelet aggregation in the blood - plus several studies proving its anti-microbial and antioxidant effect in foods, he said.

However, their ability to tackle the low-grade inflammation believed to be at the root of scores of chronic diseases was equally exciting, he said.

“There is a lot of interest in joint health, cardiovascular health and skin health, but I think that inflammation is a very big opportunity. We are all walking around with low level inflammation and we know that Hidrox can stop the cytokine cascade.”

The competition  

A flurry of olive ingredients boasting high percentages of hydroxytyrosol has recently flooded the market  - possibly trying to cash in on positive PR surrounding the EFSA opinion, said Pontoniere.

However, surprisingly few of them were backed by any clinical evidence to support claims made about them, or even analytical proof that they contained the levels of hydroxytyrosol stated on pack, he claimed.  

Unlike many other products on the market, which are hydroxytyrosol extracts from olive leaves and other components, Hidrox contains a combination of polyphenols from organic olive juice that has 50% hydroxytyrosol, and it is that patented formulation that has been tested in all of our human clinical research.

Hidrox remains the only hydroxytyrosol formulation clinically proven to be effective in joint health, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative inflammations and conditions like psoriasis and eczema.”

Patent protection

CreAgri was recently issued with a Notice of Allowance from the US Patent and Trademark Office for application 10/367,308 covering the use of hydroxytyrosol or hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein for treating inflammatory conditions.

This complements process and composition patents it has already secured and gives CreAgri broad protection, said Pontoniere.

The allowed claims encompass inflammatory processes in cardiovascular, autoimmune diseases—including psoriasis and eczema—neurodegenerative and respiratory diseases and many other human ailments having an underlying inflammatory component.”

While CreAgri had contacted a number of companies it believed might be violating its intellectual property, it has yet to sue, he said. 

"We don’t believe that is necessarily the best way to go. However, if we run into someone blatantly violating our patents and infringing on our market, we’ll go after them.”

Production process

Hidrox is produced from olive juice, which used to be thrown away as waste in the olive oil production process, until CreAgri founder Dr Roberto Crea discovered it was laced with hydroxytyrosol  and he was "throwing away liquid gold", said Pontoniere.

"Through the Integrale, our proprietary zero waste production process, we obtain four fractions: pits; olive oil, olive paste and olive juice. The pits are utilized as fuel and sold to the cosmetic industry, the oil is sold in bulk to distributors or used in cosmeceuticals, the pulp is turned into animal feed and fertilizer, and the juice is freeze dried into Hidrox."

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