New palm fruit ingredient touts sustainability, health benefits

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags Brain health Heart health Palm oil Antioxidant Antioxidant activity

The developer of a new palm oil ingredient sourced from a reliably sustainable plantation intends to make a splash at SupplySide West trade with information on brain, heart health benefits.

The new ingredient, called Palm Fruit Bioactives Complex, or PFBc, is sourced from a palm oil plantation in Chiapas, the most southerly province of Mexico.  The ingredient is being offered by Phenolaeis, a company based in Cambridge, MA, in partnership with Grupo AIEn, a large Mexican CPG firm.

Awards finalist

The ingredient was a finalist in the recent 2019 NutraIngredients-USA awards in the Healthy Aging category​.  It is an example of a ‘debut’ that was many years in the making.

Phenolaeis was established in 2011 and was granted a worldwide license by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to a portfolio of patents related to the isolation, formulation and methods of use of a water-soluble material produced from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Kevin Ohashi, PhD, CEO of Phenolaeis, said the water-soluble Palm Fruit Bioactives Complex (PFBc) produced from the fruit of the oil palm tree has been subjected to extensive scientific study over the past 15 years. The fundamental technology development was led by MPOB which worked in collaboration with scientists from world-renowned universities and institutions such as MIT (Cambridge, MA), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, MA), Brandeis University (Boston, MA), Wayne State University (Detroit, MI), and CSIRO in Australia.

 In December 2017, Phenolaeis completed a Joint Venture Partnership with Entorno Agroforestal and Evergreen Health to form Phenolaeis Mexico S.A.P.I. de C.V.

Sustainability questions

Palm oil plantations have attracted criticism because of the practice of razing rainforest in areas like the Malaysian portion of Borneo to plant the high value crop.  It’s a practice that replaces a highly diverse ecosystem with a mono crop, displacing many species in the process.  One recent study conducted by Purdue University researchers​ found that on plantations certified as ‘sustainable’ more forest cover was lost than on non certified acreage, calling into question the veracity of the certifications in the industry.

The plantation in Chiapas is on reclaimed land that had been used for cattle grazing, Ohashi said, so no existing wildlife habitats were involved.

“This is land that had already been transformed, sometime back in the mid 1900s,”​ Ohashi told NutraIngredients-USA.

The result is an ingredient with a clean story, which extends to how it’s produced. Ohashi said the ingredient is produced via a patented isolation and concentration process that involves no solvents.  This makes for a water soluble ingredient that is a non-GMO plant complex composed of natural polyphenols, fibers, carbohydrates and protein. Its soluble fiber is a carrier of various bioactive components. 

Brain and heart health indications

Ohashi said research on the ingredient indicates it  activates a wide range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways. He said it has already been shown to promote cardiac function, support exercise recovery by maintaining a healthy non-inflammatory state, help to maintain heart rate variability, and support antioxidative stress reserves/capacity to help preserve mental health. 

“It is very unusual to have a cognitive health ingredient that also supports mood state, but that’s what we’re seeing,” ​Ohashi said.

 “Our clinical and nonclinical data shows changes in Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) biomarkers with PFBc supplementation. BDNF is known to be associated with brain plasticity and cognitive function. Unlike some nutraceutical products where consumers may not feel the benefits, we have clinical data showing that PFBc promotes healthy mood states that consumers feel as measured by questionnaires,”​ he said. 

Phenolaeis is featuring the new ingredient at its SSW booth, No. 1236.

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