The French firm said the extract from brown algae is rich in polyphenols and has been clinically proven to have a positive effect on atherosclerosis. Marketed as HealSea, the extract has been clinically proven to significantly increase the production of aortic nitric oxide, well known for his vasorelaxant and antithrombin effects, the firm said. HealSea is guaranteed to contain a minimum level of 11 per cent of a particular type of polyphenols known as phloroglucinol. Diana Naturals' move, which will see the nutraceutical available as a tablet or powder in soluble form globally, is tapping into an increasing health problem across the world. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy about €169bn ($202bn) per year. Atherosclerosis occurs naturally in humans as part of the aging process, but certain factors including high blood cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes increase the risk. While the need for products aimed at cutting CVD risk is clear, Diana Naturals declined to comment on predicted sales of the extract, only adding that they expected "great success" in countries concerned by CVD. The extract will fall under the Phytonutriance brand of products, which includes nutraceuticals aimed at weight management and slimming. A European patent has also been applied for, which will protect "the composition and the application" of the ingredient. Science support Over the last few years the firm has been busy preparing a dossier of scientific backing. The company has worked in conjunction with the Centre d'Etude et de Valorisation des Algues en Bretagne, the Department of Physiology at the University of Barcelona and the Department of Food and Microbiological Sciences and Technologies at the University of Milan, to conduct studies on the extract. The group carried out in vivo animal and human clinical studies to demonstrate that the polyphenols found in HealSea contribute to the prevention of atherosclerosis. A spokesperson explained that the first animal trial studied the effect of HealSea in preventing the susceptibility of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL) to oxidation. Rats that were fed HealSea had more resistance to the onset of lipid peroxidation and to the propagation rate. A second animal study tested the accumulation of plaque on the aortic luminal area in mice. Supplementation with HealSea reduced plaque formation almost 20 times, the firm said. A double blind human clinical trial has also been performed. Healthy human volunteers took either 500 mg of HealSea or a placebo for six weeks and vitamin C plasma levels were tested. They found that levels of plasma vitamin C were significantly higher after 21 and 42 days of supplementation with HealSea compared to a placebo algae powder. More clinical studies are planned in 2008 with the Centre d'Enseignement et de Recherche en Nutrition in France.