Take vitamin K2. Evidence has shown that an adequate level of this vitamin, which refers to a couple of different metabolized forms of vitamin K, is critical in regulating the mobility of calcium in and out of the bones. Several firms, including NattoPharma and its Norwegian rival Kappa Bioscience, supply different types of the more efficacious menaquinone 7 form of the vitamin.
The last deficient vitamin
Eric Anderson, executive vice president of global sales and marketing for NattoPharma, said the story for vitamin K2 is similar to that of many other ingredients in that evidence of efficacy precedes market acceptance by a period of years.
“I think if we look at any of the robust categories within the natural products industry it is typically the story of the overnight success that takes 10 years, whether you are talking about fish oil, or vitamin D3 or another ingredient,” Anderson told NutraIngredients-USA. Nattopharma brands its ingredient as MenaQ7. “It takes time to go from epidemiological evidence to proof of concept and clinical trials until you finally arrive at a body of evidence.”
Anderson said that vitamin K2 had been found in adequate amounts in the Western diet for many years but was one of the nutrients that fell by the wayside as more and more processed food came to market. The vitamin is found in various forms of fermented foods. A major source in Asian diets is fermented soybean paste, or natto, from which NattoPharma takes its name. In Western diets, high quality fermented cheese was a major source. Then along came that favorite of childhood, boxed mac and cheese, Anderson said.
“They should call it ‘mac and chemicals,’ ” Anderson said. “We started moving away from quality fermented cheese toward processed cheese, which isn’t really cheese at all, but a combination of vegetable oil and chemicals.”
And even cheese itself is different because the raw material, milk, has changed, Anderson said. People don’t eat what they used to, and cow’s don’t, either.
“The best source in the Western diet is fermented dairy products but cows that used to eat lots of grass are now fed alternative feeds,” Anderson said.
“This is the last known vitamin in which there is a serious deficiency or insufficiency in the Western diet. We are probably 95% of us insufficient in vitamin K2. We know from epidemiological studies that populations that have higher vitamin K2 intakes have stronger bones and preserve bone density better,” he said.
Protein, but not just any protein
Branded ingredient supplier AIDP has taken a different tack in supplying an innovative ingredient into the bone health market. AIDP markets a patented ingredient called KoAct, which is a bound form of collagen and calcium, in the ratio that mimics the makeup of bone tissue itself, which is comprised primarily of Type I collagen and a mineral mixture of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
“There is documentation that protein can be helpful in bone health, and collagen is a very targeted protein that can be of even greater benefit,” said Jennifer Gu, PhD, director of research and development for AIDP.
A study conducted at Florida State University and published earlier this year showed that KoAct outperformed calcium with vitamin D3 by preserving bone density better and the increasing the rate of bone tissue turnover, a measure of how effectively the bones can replenish themselves.
“The patented bond in KoAct forces both the collagen and the calcium into the bone,” said Kathy Lund, marketing director for AIDP. “It recreates the bond between collagen and calcium that exists in the bone.”
Lund said that the recognition of the role of collagen in overall health in bone health in particular is high in markets outside North America including Japan and Europe. Consumer research that AIDP has done shows that the association of collagen with bone health is on the rise in the US, too, but there is a ways to go.
“We did a survey of about 400 postmenopausal women. (Postmenopausal women are the group most at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.) We asked about five yes or no questions about bone health. About 90% of the respondents were aware that bones deteriorate. And about 90% were aware that calcium is good for bones. Only about 50% were taking something for bone health,” Lund said.
“We did ask about collagen, and about 40% said they were aware of collagen’s association with bone health. I think that might skew a bit high because of how the survey was done,” she said.