Embria to launch organic selenium yeast in EU

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Selenium, Immune system, Dietary mineral

Two new companies in the supplements market, one each on either
side of the channel, are looking to launch an organic selenium
yeast in Europe after gaining derogation from the supplements

The ingredient has been developed by Embria Health Sciences, a new human nutrition division formed by US animal health company Diamond V Mills.

It will be introduced to the US market at next month's Supply Side West show in Las Vegas but at the same time, a new UK-based distributor, Livingstone, will start a marketing campaign in Europe to boost awareness of selenium, a little-known trace mineral.

There has been little research done on selenium in comparison with vitamins and other minerals but it is an antioxidant that can protect cells from damage from free radicals. And recent studies have suggested that it may impact immune response and thyroid function, as well as cancer risk.

"We're in the process of putting a marketing plan together to bring trace minerals up to the 21st century,"​ said Dr Stephen Minter, one of the directors of Livingstone.

"There is big interest in the fact that it appears to boost the immune system,"​ he added.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool and the Rowett Research institute reported last year that selenium supplements boosted several markers of immune response.

Yet a study done two years earlier revealed that selenium levels in British bread-making wheats are 10 to 50 times lower than in their American or Canadian counterparts, owing to reduced levels of the mineral in UK soil and lower pollution. Daily intake of the mineral is therefore often lower than the recommended amount in Britain.

Livingstone claims that some European authorities are concerned by this deficiency.

"Papers from the UK's FSA express some concern about this,"​ he said, adding that Finnish authorities have also investigated the impact on disease states.

He added that Embria's data suggest their product is more bioavailable than other forms of selenium available in Europe.

The selenium yeast growth process used in the manufacturing of the eXselen brand ingredient produces high levels of selenomethionine, an organic form of selenium that rapidly metabolizes within the body, according to Embria.

The yeast used in the process also contains beneficial B vitamins and glucans.

The current market for selenium supplements in Europe is around €40 million, estimates Dr Minter, but new awareness will drive growth. The supplements directive has also given other selenium suppliers a chance to bring their products to new European markets, including Sabinsa's Selenium SeLECT.

This product is currently being used by the National Cancer Institute in two studies into the effects of selenium and vitamin E - one, a 12-year study, investigates its potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and the other to prevent the onset of memory damage, including Alzheimer's, with age.

With results soon due on a number of trials on selenium, the market could soon see some real growth.

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