AIDP’s new line of ‘whole-food minerals’ is the work of Cura Global Health, Inc., which is based in Ames, IA and has offices within an Iowa State University building. The university has been a noted center of soil fungi research.
The Cura line of ‘Ultimine’ minerals is derived from a proprietary fermentation process using the Koji fungus (Aspergillus oryzae). The line, which has been on the market for several years, is backed by a growing IP portfolio.
Ingredient backed by patent portfolio
That includes patents, or patents pending, in many jurisdictions including the United States, China, India, Europe, Brazil, and others. The first patents date back to 2013.
Cura claims to have discovered that Koji has the ability during fermentation to absorb and store high amounts (up to 10% of its biomass) of minerals, including iron, zinc, copper, chromium, calcium, selenium, manganese, and molybdenum alone or together in any combination. The minerals are incorporated into the cell structure of the fungus.
Cura, which has been manufacturing the mineral ingredients since 2018, starts the fungus cultivation on a rice medium. Then it is transferred to a mineral rich substrate.
According to AIDP, Cura has two studies backing the bioavailability claims of its Ultimine iron ingredient. In one study, bioavailability was similar to ferrous sulfate – the gold standard of iron bioavailability. In another study, the Ultimine iron ingredient was absorbed more than 2.8 x better than the standard iron used in fortified food (ferric pyrophosphate).
In addition, AIDP said Cura’s method of binding iron within fungal cells ameliorates the GI issues that sometimes come with higher iron fortification levels. While relatively rare the side effects are unpleasant and can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dark colored stools, and stomach distress.
“AIDP is excited to be the exclusive supplier of the Ultimine line of minerals for the Americas,” said Mark Thurston, president of AIDP. “We believe these unique, food-derived, bioavailable minerals, fermented from Koji fungi have a large market potential.”
More nutrient poor foods could open up market for mineral supplementation
And that market seems to be growing. According to market research cited by AIDP, the mineral market is 6% of the US supplement market making it a $3.5 billon category growing over 11% in 2020.
Mineral fortification and supplementation could be an even bigger market in the future. A recent article published by the Yale School of the Environment indicated that between 26% to 46% of the topsoil in Iowa, which is among the world’s most fertile, has been lost since the advent of mechanical agriculture. Less nutrient dense soil could generally be equated to nutritionally inferior crops.
An older study published in 2004 looked at the protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C content of 43 garden crops in the period from 1950 to 1999. The researchers found a decline of 6% to 38%, depending on the nutrient and the crop.
That study, completed before many of the current alarms about the health of food production ecosystem, attributed most of these declines to a shift toward crop varieties that might trade other attributes such as yield, appearance, and shelf life for nutrient content. The relative nutrient declines for a similar study done today might well be higher.