Dr Ames has had a wide ranging career. In early 2020 the journal Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicity and Environmental Mutagenesis devoted an entire issue to his career, calling him “a brilliant and amazingly productive scientist.”
“His research has covered a remarkable range - from biochemical and genetic analyses of fundamental molecule mechanisms, to designing a widely used test for environmental mutagens and carcinogens, to evaluations of carcinogenic potency, to the studies of the effects of diet on human health and aging,” the introduction of the issue stated.
Product based on long, distinguished research collaboration
One of his efforts was the development of a micronutrient bar to address dietary insufficiencies. This project, which stretched over several decades, developed a bar which was first known as the CHORIbar, after Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland. The project was a collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture.
The product is now marketed under the aegis of a company called Advanced Micronutrition, which has dubbed the product Healright Daily Micronutrient Bars. The bars are based on a ‘nutrient dense superfood blend’ which includes dark chocolate, blueberry and grape juice concentrates, whey protein isolate and other ingredients. The bars also include a fiber blend, and provide six grams of protein and seven of fiber in a 250-calorie serving.
The products contain a full suite of vitamins and minerals which arise from the constituents themselves without the addition of synthetic vitamin fortification.
The new retail partnership has placed the bars in 250 Kroger stores as part of that company’s ‘Little Clinic’ community healthcare services.
"We are excited to expand Healright from direct-to-consumer, healthcare professionals and corporate wellness to retail customers," said Jonathan Smiga, co-founder and CEO of Advanced Micronutrition. "With increasing demand for self-directed health solutions with demonstrated performance, Kroger Health is a key partner as they serve as a healthcare destination.”
Bars will form part of nutritional interventions
The CHORIbar program provided a standard research material that was used throughout the extensive suit of studies over more than a decade.
“The CHORI-bar fills gaps in poor diets and is a serious dietary intervention to improve health. The CHORI-Bar is also tool of scientific inquiry which helps further understanding of how dietary components interact with metabolism. From the perspective of disease risk, the problem with poor diets is as much due to what they do not contain, as to what they do contain,” according to the program’s home page.
According to the Advanced Nutrition statement, the bars will be used in 8-week programs offered through the clinics to help improve subjects’ metabolic health and other markers.
Filling in the gaps to prevent ‘triage reaction’
The bars were specifically meant to forestall the implications of what Dr. Ames came to call his ‘triage theory.’
By appreciating that natural selection favors short-term survival over the long-term, he hypothesized that humans achieved short-term survival by prioritizing the allocation of scarce micronutrients. In other words, to stop from falling over from a lack of iron in the heart, for example, iron is pulled from non-essential sources.
The triage theory is a way of “measuring the insidious damage going on over time," Dr Ames told NutraIngredients-USA in 2017.
The theory was first proposed in 2006 (PNAS, Vol. 103, Pages 17589-94) to explain why age-related diseases like heart disease, cancer, and dementia may be unintended consequences of mechanisms developed during evolution to protect against episodic vitamin/mineral shortages.
“If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, aging, and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions, such as ATP production, intact,” explained Dr Ames in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
However, since it was first published he conceded that the wider nutrition community has not embraced the theory.
“A new idea is always hard to get through,” he said. The resistance has come from some of the “old timers," said the octogenarian scientist, who think that such a theory would “encourage people to take more vitamins”.