High-zeaxanthin marigolds could have major impact on eye health

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Macular degeneration

New company Chrysantis' plan to bring to market proprietary
marigold extracts with a high natural zeaxanthin content could give
eye health product formulators a new tool to help combat
age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), reports Jess
Halliday.

The Ball Horticultural subsidiary, formed last year to develop and market plant-derived ingredients for the dietary supplements and functional foods industry, has developed a new range of marigolds with carotenoid profiles ranging from 75 percent zeaxanthin and 5 percent lutein to 50 percent zeaxanthin and 50 percent lutein.

The company cites a study published in Opthalmology and Visual Science (2003; volume 44; pp2461-2465)​ that suggested that lutein alone may not be enough to protect against ARMD. Most marigolds have a carotenoid profile of 80 percent lutein to 5 percent zeaxanthin.

According to Chrysantis general manager Manuel Pavon, zeaxanthin represents half of the macular pigment and its location suggests that it has a very particular role to play in protecting the macular and the lens.

He said that zeaxanthin is a better antioxidant than lutein, is better at absorbing blue light and is also very good at protecting tissues from the products of lipid oxidation.

Pavon told NutraIngredients-USA that the breakthrough could be a major departure for formulators of eye care products.

He added that until relatively recently, lutein and zeaxanthin could not be separated, meaning that the properties seen in research related to both carotenoids. Research into the individual properties of zeaxanthin is ongoing.

Pavon claims Chrysantis' product is the first natural zeaxanthin on the market. DSM produces a synthetic version, but it is always better to extract substances from plants than from chemicals, he maintains.

The extract has been six years in development and has cost the company over $3 million. "The problem with natural products is that you can't accelerate the process,"​ said Pavon.

But if his predictions come true, the wait will have been well worth it. The product is expected to generate sales of $15 million in the next five years.

No major deals have been lined up yet, however, since the official launch of the company and the product will take place at Supply Side East in May.

Although the price of Chrysantis' zeaxanthin will be slightly higher than that of lutein in terms of dollar per gram, according to Pavon it is not necessary to use so much, translating into a cheaper daily dosage cost.

In addition to supplying the new extracts, Chrysantis also supplies marigold seeds from which 70 percent of the dietary supplements and functional foods industry's lutein is derived.

Within the next two years it plans to introduce more marigold extracts, including those capable of producing beta-carotene and lycopene. Pavin said that the hard work - that is, developing the marigold varieties - has already been done. Now it remains to carry out research into the extraction and purification process.

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