NeOpuntia has been available to the dietary supplement market for over seven years, and is already used in more than 150 finished products, mainly targeted at weight management. While this use continues to grow, the company has deemed that now is the time to explore the potential of its best-seller in a broader range of products, and on a wider health platform. Spokesperson Karen Jaunatre told NutraIngredients.com that BioSerae is present designing an in vitro model to investigate how the ingredient could be used in food, and some interested food companies are also said to be researching its potential in their products. Food companies generally require a solid store of evidence behind an ingredient before it can be used in mainstream products. BioSerae's research efforts – in vivo and in vitro studies – have, until now, been focused on supplements. If BioSerae is successful in its bid for NeOpuntia's use in a broader range of products, it follows that sales could mushroom. But foods versus supplement is only half of the plan. The company is also promoting the ingredient's use on a broader health platform than just weight management. It recently funded a clinical study to investigate its benefits on blood lipid levels in 60 women with body mass index of 25 to 40 who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The study was conducted at an independent laboratory. It has not been published to date, and NutraIngredients.com has not seen the full results. But according to the company, a dose of 1.6g of NeOpuntia with each meal was seen to improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which has positive implications for cardiovascular health. Moreover, at the end of the study almost 40 per cent of the women were no longer considered to have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterised by a collection of factors, including overweight/obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and insulin resistance. It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Jaunatre said that there is already interest from companies in using Neopuntia in products positioned for a general health platform. Weight management is a very topical sector of the food and supplements industries at the moment, in light of efforts to address the obesity crisis sweeping the Western world. According to the International Obesity Taskforce, an estimated 300 million people around the world are obese (that is, having a BMI over 30). The taskforce warns that, unless urgent measures are taken now, obesity levels will continue to rise in the early 21st century, with severe health consequences. But awareness of the dangers of obesity has also stirred consumer interest in wider issues relating food and health. Diet is increasingly seen as a tool to preserve health, rather than taking a medicinal approach to counter ill-health once it has occurred. Moreover, the baby-boom generation is now in its seventh decade. More affluent than any previous generation, many people are seeking ways to stay healthy and active for as long as possible – both physically and in terms of their mental function.