Joint health ingredient developer says market overdue for new product backed by solid data

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Sarin Paraksa
©Getty Images - Sarin Paraksa

Related tags Turmeric Joint health

The developer of a new ingredient called TamaFlex said its synergistic pairing of Ayurvedic constituents will help breathe life into the somnolescent joint health category.

TamaFlex is produced by NXT USA, a multinational group formed to develop the ingredient.  TamaFlex pairs a tamarind seed extract with a turmeric extract to achieve what the developer calls a synergistic combo that addresses joint discomfort via several biochemical pathways.

In both cases the ingredients arise out of Indian herbal medicine and culinary traditions.  Turmeric has been a base ingredient for curries in all parts of India for many centuries.  Tamarind seeds and fruit is a prominent spice in curries from southern India.  Turmeric (Curcuma longa​) is a root crop, whereas tamarind (Tamarindus indica​) is a fruit bearing tree.  Both plants are cultivated on a wide scale in India and have been introduced in tropical climes in other parts of the world.

Developer: Joint health market overdue for something new

Eric Anderson, managing director of NXT USA, which is backed in part by Norwegian investors,  said the opportunity for joint health ingredients remains a robust one, even if the market for these ingredients has lagged somewhat.

“The population is aging yet people still want to be significantly ambulatory and have an active lifestyle.  As we hit age 40 or 50 even general exertion, such as taking our kids to the park or gardening, can get you sore.  That can progress to significant joint discomfort,”​ Anderson told NutraIngredients-USA.

“But the old standbys, glucosamine and chondroitin, have been losing significant sales over the years.  The market is looking for something new,” ​he added.

Anderson said the TamaFlex ingredient has been under development for a number of years.  The choice of ingredients was based on their biochemical properties and wasn’t driven by market forces, Anderson maintains.  A snap reaction for the announcement of a new turmeric product might be that the line is a long one.

Ingredients chosen for specific synergistic effects

“We chose tamarind seed extract and turmeric extract because they have complimentary mechanisms.  When we settled on turmeric, it hadn’t yet blown up the way it has in the past four years,”​ Anderson said.

According to the American Botanical Council, which  issues an annual Herb Market Report, turmeric products have been at or near the top of the best sellers list​ in both the natural and mainstream channels for several years.

Anderson said TamaFlex is unique in that it targets the two pathways that cause joint inflammation — the COX-2 and 5-LOX enzyme pathways. Most joint health products address only one of these. 

Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a key enzyme in fatty acid metabolism, is upregulated during inflammation episodes (it’s also upregulated when cancer is present). Curcumin, the set of active constituents found in turmeric, has been shown to affect this pathway​.  

Lipoxygenase (LOX) is a kind of rate-limiting enzyme in the process of arachidonic acid metabolism into leukotriene (LT) which mediates the occurrence of inflammation. The inhibition of LOX can reduce LT, thereby producing an anti-inflammatory effect.  Tamarind seed has been identified as a potent inhibitor of this process​.

“If we could address both of those pathways at the same time, that is something that hasn’t been done before,” ​Anderson said.

In a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences​, the TamaFlex product was shown to alleviate knee discomfort in a cadre of healthy adults. The product was also shown to improve joint function as measured by the before and after range of motion in the knee joint.  The healthy subjects induced knee discomfort via various fast walking exercises.

Starting with healthy subjects key to marketing strategy

Anderson said the choice of a healthy population and the good results shown in the study were key elements in the marketing strategy for the new ingredient.  If the company was to set about making claims to improve joint comfort and function for the average consumer, the data needed to align with that message.

“The vast majority of supplement ingredients today based their studies looking at arthritic populations,” ​Anderson said.

In addition to lessening discomfort, Anderson said measurements of breakdown products in the synovial fluid in the participants’ knees showed that TamaFlex was helping to protect the cartilage in the joint and was enabling the body to get ahead in the breakdown/rebuilding process.

“We showed our product could change the physiology of the joint. This is a new concept in the category that could really use some attention,”​ Anderson said.

Backing claims with specific data

Anderson said the NXT backers wanted to bring a product to market that had rock solid science behind it.  The company has another study in the works that does look at subjects who are already suffering joint impairment.  He said the approach differs from some other products making joint support claims that are not as well supported by the evidence.

“For example, you see things like CBD which has exploded with claims that have no substantiation whatsoever.  We have clinically validated this and we have published all of the data,”​ he said.

Source: International Journal of Medical Sciences
2019; 16(6):845-853. doi:10.7150/ijms.32505
A Combination of ​Tamarindus indica seeds and ​Curcuma longa Rhizome Extracts Improves Knee Joint Function and Alleviates Pain in Non-Arthritic Adults Following Physical Activity
Authors: Rao PS, et al.

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