Robin Ward, vice president of marketing for Linnea, manufacturer of HMRlignan (hydroxymatairesinol), said the study was a "big step forward in building the market for menopause health."
Lignans, found in the cell walls of plants such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, are converted into enterodiol and enterolactone in the colon. The lignan market is currently dominated by Acatris' SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) flax lignan but competition is increasing in this area as Linnea gathers more evidence in support of HMRlignan.
HMRlignan is said to be suitable for stand-alone or multi ingredient supplements since only a small dose is needed - between 10 to 40mg are said to elevate the enterolactone level to the same degree as three tablespoons of lignans from unground flax seed, and with higher bioavailability.
This dosage is supported by the new study, performed at the University of Insubria, Varese, which tested estradiol (the major oestrogen in humans), hydroxymatairesinol and its metabolite enterolactone on the oestrogenic activity in MCF-7 human breast cells.
All three compounds were reported to display oestrogenic activity, with estradiol active in the picomole concentration range. Enterolactone was about 60 per cent less efficient, while hydroxymatairesinol was active only in micromole concentrations and at 70 per cent the efficacy of estradiol.
Lead researcher, Dr. Marco Cosentino, said: "The present study support the notion that dietary supplementation with Norway spruce lignans provides a suitable source for endogenous enterolactone which in turn is likely beneficial for several conditions related to oestrogen insufficiency, and at the same time devoid of the adverse effects induced by stronger oestrogenic agents.
In humans, hydroxymatairesinol at the currently recommended doses represent mainly a source of enterolactone, which in turn exerts a mild oestrogenic activity."
Cosentino told NutraIngredients.com (which has not seen the full data) that a manuscript of the results is currently in preparation and should be published soon.
Linnea has welcomed the results, but added that the results were not a surprise, as the same effect has already been seen in flax.
Don Stanek, director of sales for Linnea said the research was good news for women, and offered a soft phytoestrogens alternative to help manage menopause.
"In human pharmacokinetic studies just 10 to 30 milligrams of HMRlignan has been demonstrated to maintain enterolactone above the effective median concentration levels stablished in this study," said Stanek.
Ward added that the company is planning a human clinical study, but wanted first to establish that the enteralactone concentrations in HMRlignan (10-30mg) are active levels for oestrogenicity in humans.
Following this, the company plans to move to a pilot clinical trial before the year is out, involving at least 40 women. This will be sponsored by Linnea and carried out at a clinical research organisation.
Other research underway involves investigating the effect of HMR Lignan on rats with enlarged prostate glands. The results of this are due within the next month, and if positive Linnea will take this, too, to human clinical stage.