As populations age, health conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are increasing. Indeed, some estimates put 43 percent of the US population at risk of losing their eyesight. The potential of scientifically-backed ingredients to boost eye health, or reduce the risk of age-related declines, is clear.
The main ingredients in the eye health arena are lutein and zeaxanthin. The industry is united behind its conviction that marigold flowers as the best source.
“Where there is lutein in nature, there is also zeaxanthin,” explained Holger Becker, PhD, Global Product Manager for Cognis’ Xangold braded lutein esters.
According to David Cai, PhD, senior science and regulatory manager for North America and Asia for Cognis, lutein is present naturally in marigolds in the ester form. Cognis supplies exclusively in the esterified form. The body then coverts lutein esters to the free lutein form.
OmniActive’s Bhattacharya noted, however, that lutein is present in both free and ester forms in foods like spinach, eggs, and kale. The Indian company supplies the ingredient in both free and ester forms, as well as combinations of the two.
Kemin Health’s Dr Diane Alexander, technical service manager, R&D told NutraIngredients, however, that the rate of conversion in the body of lutein esters to free lutein is unknown. The late Rod Ausich is credited with inventing the company’s flagship FloraGlo lutein ingredient, and pioneering a new methodology for the development of purified lutein.
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2006, Vol. 54, pp. 4593-4599) explored the potential of microalgae as a source of lutein. According to the researchers from the Central Food and Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India, Botryococcus braunii was a rich source of carotenoids, and lutein in particular.
A spokesperson for Kemin Health told NutraIngredients in 2006 that the company continued to believe marigold extract remains the most commercially viable source for purified lutein.
Cognis’ Becker told NutraIngredients that he was aware that some companies were looking at microalgae, but current attempts have not been successful in extracting and making it a commercially viable product.
Abhijit Bhattacharya from OmniActive Health Technologies concurred: “As of now and for sometime going forward, marigold flowers will be the established commercial source of lutein,” he said.
All of the companies told NutraIngredients that they have sustainable practices. Kemin’s Dr Alexander noted their marigolds are food grade, sourced from various places in the world. “We have a fully traceable and reliable supply chain.”
OmniActive source exclusively in India, said Bhattacharya, and “largely in its Southern parts”. “Over a period of time we have focused on ensuring safe and sustainable agricultural practices,” he added.
Cognis sources from Ecuador, said Dr Cai. “We have one source, one partner. It’s vertically integrated and fully sustainable.”
The other ingredients catching the eye in the market are astaxanthin, the pink pigment that gives salmon its color, and omega-3, particularly DHA. The main players in the astaxanthin include Israel’s Algatechnologies and Hawaii’s Cyanotech – both of which source from Haematococcus pluvialis algae cultures - Japan’s Fuji Chemicals’ AstaReal.
Algae again provide DHA omega-3, with Martek Biosciences dominating this segment. There is significant research however supporting both DHA and EPA for eye health, with fish oils providing the most accessible sources of both.
NutraIngredients will conclude its eye health series with a look at the regulatory issues in the US, Europe and beyond.
To read the first part in the series, ‘Unravelling the market for eye health’ please click here.
To read the second part, ‘The science of eye health ingredients’, please click here.