Frutarom harnesses mental health benefits of green oat

By Jess Hallliday in Geneva

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Oat

In seeking inspiration for a new ingredient for mental health,
Frutarom looked to the middle ages, when green oat was
traditionally used in this area - and used modern science to
support its efficacy.

The Israeli company introduced EFLA955 Wild Green Oat Neuravena Special Extract at Vitafoods this week.

The medieval healer Hildegard von Bingen reported in the 12th century that green oat is a mood enhancer and can contribute to a clear, sharp mind. She also saw a strength-building benefit in cases of chronic fatigue or 'weakness'.

But recognition of these uses dropped off over time. Today, oats are more commonly associated with heart health and being a slow release carbohydrate that can help keep blood sugar levels on an even keel.

But product manager Carla Wullschleger told NutraIngredients.com that mental health is a growing area:

"If you look at today's lifestyle, it is no wonder it is a hot topic. We are stressed and work long hours, and these things have a negative impact on mental health."

The new extract, initially announced by the company in January, can provide positioning opportunities in the areas of cognitive support, concentration enhancement, stress and burnout, chronic fatigue, mood balance and nerve strengthening, says the company.

There are already some green oat extracts on the market, but Frutarom was selective about the variety of wild oat (Avena sativa L.) that it chose. The approach to developing the extract was bioguided assay - that is, specific in vitro test systems to support traditional indications scientifically.

Thirty-six different oat varieties were tested, and old and wild types were preferred over new cultivars developed for food purposes.

The screening process included a number of central nervous system test systems, which led to the identification, in certain species, of a physiologically significant inhibitory effect on two enzymes connected with mental health: monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) and phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE 4).

MAO-B is responsible for breaking down dopamine, and inhibitors are useful for depression and neurodegenerative diseases. PDE 4 serves as a signal amplifier, breaking down cyclic adenosine monophosphate; inhibitors are important to the investigation of antidepressants and neurodegenerative diseases.

The company finally settled on Neuravena as the wild type variety that has the highest degree of bioactivity and safety of use.

The benefit of green oats, Wullschleger explained, is not down to any one identified component, but the whole spectrum of elements that occur in oats, including flavonoids and steroid saponines. Wild Green Oat Neuravena Special Extract uses the same ratio of all of these components as occurs naturally in the oat.

Wullschleger explained that the extraction process uses water and 30 per cent ethanol, and the extract is purified using Frutarom's trademarked EFLA Hyperpure system.

Frutarom is focusing initially on Wild Green Oat Neurovena Special Extract's use in dietary supplements, and is also looking to its use in functional foods. In particular, since it is soluble, it can be used in clear functional beverages.

A recent report from Frost and Sullivan identified mental health as one of the key areas to watch in supplements, but it is still too early to put a figure on the market's value.

Neurovena oats are contract grown, so the company has to commission the quantities from farmers a year in advance.

It expects good demand and reception since the new extract is natural and therefore has good acceptance on the market.

Oat is not a new plant and already has a positive health image, so it may be less of a leap of faith to try an oat extract than another plant or substance.

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