The company claims that the study showed that the scanner - a non-invasive method to measure carotenoid antioxidant activity in human tissue - produced carotenoid measurements with less variability than blood carotenoids (measured by conventional HPLC methods). The study also found a strong correlation between the BioPhotonic Scanner scores and blood carotenoids.
The study - which was presented last month to the American College of Nutrition (ACN) in Long Beach, California - involved 372 healthy adults. During eight days they provided three fasted blood samples and three same-day Raman-spectroscopic determinations of skin carotenoids.
The researchers found that the variability of the biophotonic method was significantly less (9.48 percent) than that observed using the serum/HPLC method (10.44 percent). Moreover they said that the correlation between the biophotonic skin and HPLC serum measurements was high (r=0.82) and statistically significant.
The toaster-size scanner works by the patient placing the palm of his hand in front of a low-energy blue light laser, which allows him to obtain a reading of his carotenoid antioxidant level. When the light from the laser strikes the palm of the hand, it becomes green due to the chemical make up of the carotenoid antioxidant molecules.
The green light is then gathered and assessed to produce a numeric reading. This number correlates with levels of carotenoids in the diet, blood and tissues. Since the scanner measures the major carotenoid antioxidants, it is is an important indicator of the body's overall antioxidant defense system, acording to Pharmavex.
Carsten Smidt, vice president of research and development for Pharmanex, told NutraIngredientsUSA.com that this method is also accurate because the reading is not altered by skin color or melanin levels.
At the moment this technology is only being used in the US and being distributed through Pharmavex's network, but the firm is planning to move into Asia and Europe in the immediate future.
Smidt hopes that as more and more people have access to this equipment and are aware of their carotenoid score, they will be encouraged to up their intake of fruit and veg or begin the regular consumption of an antioxidant supplement.
He remarked that there was a significant difference in carotenoid scores depending on the lifestyle of an individual. He said that somebody who ate five to nine servings of fruit and veg scored about 35 000 whereas somebody who ate only two to three servings had a much lower score down around 20 000. Smidt added that people who smoked or were obese had even lower scores, around 16 000 for those in the latter group.On the other hand, people who ate well and regularly took an antioxidant supplement had a score of 40 000.
"Thirty thousand is a fairly good level and would indicate a person was eating around five portions of fruit and veg and maybe taking a weak antioxidant, said Smidt.
Despite the apparent desirability of this equipment being more widespread, production facilities are limited at present. Pharmavex hopes to retify this situation by building a new factory in Shanghai, which should be open by the end of the year.
The company is also carrying out further research in conjunction with several universities to see, among other things, how the scanner could be used in large scale health studies.