Nawgan founder: ‘Our ambition is to become the most relevant brand in the world.’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Coffee

Nawgan, which was launched in 2010 in Missouri, is now available in selected stores in Florida and Illinois as well
Nawgan, which was launched in 2010 in Missouri, is now available in selected stores in Florida and Illinois as well
The neuropsychologist behind brain-friendly functional beverage Nawgan says he is on a mission to turn it into “the most relevant brand in the world”.

The drink, which was launched in 2010 in Missouri and is now available in Illinois and Florida, features the strapline ‘What to drink when you want to think’ and is “more about alertness than memory per se”​, although it was “developed to provide both long-term and short-term benefits to brain function,”​ Nawgan founder Dr Rob Paul told NutraIngredients-USA.

“The key with Nawgan is that we have included ingredients that are selective in how they function, rather than a ‘kitchen-sink’ approach to product formulation.”

Long- and short-term benefits to brain function

While Nawgan competed with coffee or energy drinks such as Red Bull, “people respond differently to ingredients included in these very different products,” ​claimed Paul. “Only Nawgan includes 250mg of Cognizin citicoline, which creates unique opportunities for consumers.”

Retail buyers were also looking at products that did not have unwanted side effects, he said. “Buyers recognize that Nawgan provides alertness and overall brain health without negative consequences - high sugar, ingredients that make their heart race or skin flush.”

Alertness and concentration

Nawgan contains citicoline (a combination of choline and cytidine); Alpha-GPC (Alpha-glyceryl phosphoryl choline – claimed to increase acetylcholine in the brain); lycopene; caffeine (100mg); and natural vitamin E.

Unlike many products in the cognitive function market, claims made by Nawgan were supported by research on the end product rather than extrapolations based on literature about individual ingredients, said Dr Paul.

There are a number of brands that over-promise brain functional benefits. Our packaging references alertness and concentration as functional benefits of Nawgan as in our clinical trial ​[conducted by Dr Steven Bruce, associate professor at the Dept of Pyschology at the University of Missouri, published online ​in November 2011 in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition​ ] individuals were able to identify subjective improvements in alertness that coincided with the improvements in quantitative EEG results.

“At present the FTC and FDA guidelines restrict what is communicated regarding the functional benefits of vitamin E and lycopene. But needless to say we like those ingredients given our understanding of how the brain is functioning and the mechanisms that these ingredients influence.”

Which ingredients are responsible for the claimed effects?

Dr Bruce’s small-scale study – conducted on 10 college graduates aged 25-32 – used a non-caffeinated drink as a placebo, so it was not possible to determine whether Nawgan (which contains 100mg of caffeine) provided additional benefits beyond what might be achieved via caffeine alone, he acknowledged.

“It is unclear how these findings may differ from studies that have examined the benefits of caffeine alone on improvements in attention as this study was not designed to assess the specific mechanisms of action of each of the ingredients included in the supplement.”

However, his study suggested “that 250 mg of citicoline, at least when combined with choline and caffeine in the beverage, results in significant improvements in EEG markers of alertness”, ​he said.

“Importantly, these potentially beneficial effects were evident in the absence of taurine, glucuronolactone and guarana.”

More research was needed to “validate the results and ensure appropriate generalization”, ​he added.

Growing interest

Citicoline – which features in 5-Hour Energy shots in unspecified amounts – is starting to appear in a range of new products and formats from GungHo energy gel shots ​to TianChi energy drinks ​as well as established dietary supplements from brands such as Life Extension, Jarrow Formulas and Swanson.

Some clinical studies show that citicoline has memory/cognitive benefits for healthy subjects with some memory problems and in subjects with cerebral disorders.

Cognizin – the branded citicoline used in Nawgan – is produced by Kyowa Hakko (a unit of Japan's Kirin Holdings), and contains a combination of choline and cytidine.

Choline is available in many foods from potatoes to cauliflower, but cytidine is not widely consumed in Western diets, claims the firm.

Nawgan was founded in 2007 by Dr Paul and​James von der Heydt, who held a number of senior roles at petfood giant Ralston Purina in the ‘80s and ‘90s and has more recently lead a consulting firm targeting early stage companies.

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