‘Dramatic growth’ for ultra-pure beta-glucan as Norwegian owners target US

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system

‘Dramatic growth’ for ultra-pure beta-glucan as Norwegian owners target US
Norwegian life sciences firm ImmunoMedic is in talks with a number of potential distributors about introducing a 93% purity beta glucan 1,3 / 1,6 to the US as an alternative to the cheap, lower purity products starting to ”invade the market” as interest in immune health grows.

Unlike the cholesterol-busting beta glucans found in oats (which have the molecular structure 1,3/1,4), some beta glucans with the 1,3/1,6 structure are claimed to ‘prime’ the innate immune system: the body’s first line of defense against invasion by bacteria and viruses.

Low purity and low priced beta glucans are invading the market

However, not all 1,3/1,6 beta glucans are the same, said Adrian Doboly, head of R&D at ImmunoMedic, which is promoting its micronized Betox-93 beta-glucan 1,3/1,6 (derived from certified organic oyster mushrooms) as an ultra-high-purity – and more bioavailable – option.

“As lower-purity and low-priced beta glucan start to invade the market, we have tried to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack.”

Many rivals were offering much lower purity levels (around 75%), he claimed. “This matters in terms of safety - Betox-93 contains no fats and proteins - possible allergens - and efficacy as the more ‘covered’ beta glucan is in a mixture of other ingredients, the less it can activate the immune cells. Micronization is a galenic procedure for achieving higher bioavailability of non-soluble ingredients.”

Strong potential in functional food market

1,3/1,6 beta glucans – which can also be derived from baker’s yeast – were also starting to attract the attention of food manufacturers because they can withstand wide pH ranges, high temperatures and harsh processing conditions, unlike some other immune health ingredients such as probiotics, said Doboly.

“Betox-93 is perfectly stable in most applications. Calculated thermo-oxidative stability is over 30 years, heat resistance is up to 180°C. Betox-93 is insoluble in ethanol, oils or water. However in water, Betox-93 acts a bit as a gelifier. It is is very indistinct in taste or smell and therefore it is easily applied in foods and drinks.”

Sales in the fortified food market are growing steadily

He added: “At the moment, the biggest share in our sales belongs to food supplements, followed by cosmetics and feed additives.

“But sales in the fortified food market grow steadily and probably will become a second major pillar in our turnover, next to the food supplements market.”

The ingredient, which has been on sale in Europe since 2004, is now being introduced to the US, said Doboly. “We have been surprised by the interest by the US companies. We are in negotiations with several ingredients distributors, multi-level-marketers as well as contract manufacturers.

“The recent business development was quite dramatic in the past 12 months and we expect to have more than 25 countries covered by the end of 2012.”

The science

There have been more than 22 studies on P.ostreatus glucan documenting various effects, said Doboly. “We have the same glucan (P. ostreatus beta-1,3/1,6-D-glucan), but we have higher purity.

“Over the last three years we ran several experiments with exciting results, although they can’t be published due to lack of statistical significance. However they have indicated to us the paths we should direct bigger studies.

“Currently we have finished one study and we are writing a resume of this study. It should be available in matter of weeks.

“Secondly, in cooperation with Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana University Cancer Center, we are studying the anti-inflammatory effects of our glucan and documenting molecular pathways of such effects. This project will end in one to three years.

“In 2012 we’re planning a 2-year phase I clinical trial. But I can´t tell you more about it at this stage.”

Health claims

He added: “Beta glucan is nature’s most documented immunomodulator, with more than 10,000 studies on stimulation of the immune system and many other beneficial health effects, with anti-cancer as the most prominent.

“Obviously, claiming anti-cancer effects is strictly against all claims rules and therefore the immunostimulation claim is the next best thing.

“Immune system claims for probiotics are OK,” ​he said. ”However probiotics help only gastrointestinal immunity, while glucans can get past the gastrointestinal tract to the blood system and can activate immune cells in all the body.”

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