Bergstrom Nutrition, based in Vancouver, WA, has been developing its branded OptiMSM ingredient for several decades. The company’s long development cycle has led to a production process whereby the molecule can by synthesized economically and, most importantly, entirely consistently, said Tim Hammond, sales and marketing VP at Bergstrom. Like some other dietary ingredient suppliers who work with this production pathway, Bergstrom emphasizes the advantages in purity and fully predictable supply.
Transparency about sourcing
“We are subtle about talking about having a synthetic ingredient,”Hammond told NutraIngredients-USA. While the company is not waving the flag of that production process from the mountaintop, Hammond said it also doesn’t pay to try to obscure an ingredient’s provenance with what Bergstrom views as cloudy marketing language.
“There are some marketers out there talking about having ‘wood sourced MSM.’That kind of raw material hasn’t been around since at least 2010. And some talk about ‘organic sulfur’in their production processes. We want to be the source of facts when it comes to MSM,”Hammond said.
The position of OptiMSM is similar to some other legacy synthesized ingredients in this uncertain environment after the FDA issued the various iterations of the Draft Guidance on New Dietary Ingredients. Balchem was working on regulatory compliance on the ingredient long before the agency took its current hard line on synthesized versions of botanical ingredients. Whether that view will end up in a final guidance (and whether the guidance will actually be made final at some point) are all unsettled questions. But it seems unlikely that FDA would want to go after ingredients with a long history of use in the market and a long record of safety.
“We have had GRAS status since 2008 and we have a letter of no objection from FDA so there is not much further we can go on that,” Hammond said. He noted that the company’s production process has achieved achieving FSSC 22000 certification, which is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and is based on existing ISO standards.
MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, has a history of beneficial use in joint health and other health indications, where it works to quell inflammation. It has has skin health benefits as well, and recent research has focused on the ingredient’s sports recovery applications.
Role in antioxidant pathway opens sports nutrition applications
Eric Withee, who has a master’s degree in integrative medicine research from teh National College of Natural Medicine and who works in technical sales support at Bergstrom, said MSM has a novel mode of action that differs from the standard antioxidant story, which has become a bit murky of late with questions of when abundant antioxidant supplementation might become too much. It has helped build the case for MSM as a sports nutrition ingredient, though one that works on a unique pathway.
“Reactive oxygen species are a little bit of a two-sided coin. They break cells open and damage tissues, but at the same time they are one of the key signaling pathways that is telling your body to build more muscle or create more endogenous antioxidant capacity,”he said.
“MSM works differently. It cannot by itself soak up free radicals. It works with the body to create more innate antioxidant capacity. With higher levels of MSM we have found the levels of SOD (superoxide dismutase, an important cellular antioxidant enzyme) and glutathione (often called the cell’s ‘master antioxidant’) are higher, too,”Withee said.
“The question has become that if you take an antioxidant, are you really doing yourself a favor? With MSM we don’t blunt that body’s adaptive response. But we are challenged in that we are not a bigger, stronger, faster kind of ingredient,”Hammond said.
Rodney Benjamin, Bergstrom’s director of technical development, said more work is being done on MSM’s precise mode of action. MSM is far from alone in the dietary ingredient field of being able to show certain benefits without being able to way, reaction by reaction, exactly how those benefits are achieved.
“We started out with joint health and showed efficacy. But people are always asking about the mode of action. MSM is 34% elemental sulfur by weight. We are doing additional work to document its ability to donate that sulfur. Sulfur is an under appreciated mineral that has an important function as a building block of a lot of connective tissue,” he said.