Sports Nutrition is one of the fastest growing segments in both the functional foods and dietary supplement markets, and probably the most recognized ingredient in sports nutrition is protein. There is no doubt that protein is important in building muscle mass and in repairing injured tissue. Protein supplements come in various forms, though the most common are protein powders. These powders are concentrated forms of protein and can be obtained from either plant or animal sources. They are typically sold in one of three forms. Protein concentrates are the closest to whole food and contain about 60-70% protein, with fat and carbohydrates making up the rest. Protein isolates are prepared by removal of the fat and carbs. Protein isolates contain at least 90% protein. Protein hydrolysates are produced by hydrolysis (heating, acid or enzymes) that breaks the amino acid bonds. Hydrolysates consist of mixtures of oligopeptides, peptides and free amino acids. They are reportedly more easily absorbed into circulation and used by the body.[1] Protein supplements are easy to find and there are lots of options for the source of the protein and the form in which is it sold; but, just like other supplement ingredients, not all of them are beneficial or even safe. To ensure the best benefits from consuming a protein supplement, consumers of these products should consider several important factors. One important consideration for persons selecting protein supplements to improve sports performance is the selection of products that contain complete proteins, containing all nine essential amino acids. Probably the most popular single source for complete protein is whey. Whey is derived from milk and has the advantage of being easily digested and absorbed. It is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which play an important role in muscle development and exercise recovery. However, whey protein concentrate contains the milk sugar, lactose, which can be problematic for those who are lactose intolerant. Selecting an isolate can help overcome this obstacle. Another popular dairy protein is casein. Casein is absorbed more slowly than whey and may help slow down muscle breakdown during intense exercise. Both whey and casein are commodity ingredients so quality issues and adulteration are possible. One of the best sources of complete protein that is also suitable for some vegetarians is egg protein. Eggs have the highest PDCAAS or “protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score”, which measures a protein’s quality and digestibility. Egg protein also is second only to whey in its content of leucine, the BCAA that plays the largest role in muscle health. Usually, egg protein is derived from the egg white, which contains the highest proportion of protein and minimal fat, as the fat in eggs is found almost exclusively in the yolk. Another part of the egg that is beginning to get increased attention is the eggshell membrane. This thin, fibrous, protective, dual layer of the egg is mostly protein and is rich in nutrients, including Types I, V and X collagen and several important glycosaminoglycans, such as chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. Recent research has also indicated that unhydrolyzed eggshell membrane might function like a prebiotic source capable of beneficially increasing gut diversity.[2] For vegans and vegetarians who don’t consume animal products, selecting a complete protein source might be more of a challenge. Soy protein contains all nine essential amino acids and is a very popular protein source, though it does have several drawbacks including its GMO status, allergenicity and digestibility, and its content of natural estrogens. Fermentation of the soy helps overcome some of these disadvantages. Pea Protein is another common vegetarian protein source. It contains all nine essential amino acids, though methionine is often very low or absent from some forms. Pea protein is rich in BCAAs. Other good plant proteins include hemp, chia and rice. To ensure a complete plant protein supplement, often there will be a mixture of proteins from different plant sources. Shorter chain protein peptides, typically from beef or chicken, particularly collagen peptides, are also popular protein supplements for athletes and others who purchase supplements to help improve sports performance and offset fatigue. Most collagen peptides are hydrolyzed (partially or completely broken down) to make them easier to absorb through the intestinal wall. These specialized protein supplements may provide support for both joints and bones and help boost muscle mass. One area that is often neglected when either marketing or purchasing a protein supplement is consideration of the fact that it is possible to consume too much protein for our bodies to adequately break down and absorb. Our bodies break down protein quite efficiently provided our gastric, pancreatic and intestinal digestive mechanisms are functioning as they should. But even a minor digestive disruption such as insufficient gastric acid (a real problem for those who must take acid neutralizers) can drastically impact the efficiency of protein digestion, sending too much undigested protein to the colon, where it can be fermented by certain colonic bacteria, potentially producing toxic compounds.[3] A reasonable goal for most is around 15-25% of total daily calories, but this also depends upon age, sex, and activity level.[4] There is no doubt that protein plays a vital role in supporting the nutritive needs for athletes and others desiring to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, particularly after middle age. With proper care and consideration, selecting the right protein supplement can be a critical tool in achieving these goals.   [1]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-protein-powder#section4 [2] Jia H et al. (2017) Eggshell membrane powder ameliorates intestinal inflammation by facilitating the restitution of epithelial injury and alleviating microbial dysbiosis. www.nature.com/scientificreports/7:43993/DOI:10.1038/srep43993. [3] Diether NE and Willing BP (2019). Microbial fermentation of dietary protein: an important factor in diet-microbe-host interaction. Microorganisms 7, 19. [4] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
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The Immune System is the body’s mechanism for protection and self-healing. Part of the job of the Immune System is to respond to harmful stimuli; and it provides the mechanisms for destroying damaged cells and fighting off toxins and harmful pathogens. Inflammation is an integral part of Immune System functioning as it provides a means for isolating damaged tissue to begin the process of self-healing. By expanding blood vessels around an injury, nutrients and immune repair cells can more effectively reach their target location and begin the healing process. This also leads to swelling, which helps to segregate the damaged area from the surrounding healthy tissue.  Ideally, once healing begins, the inflammatory process begins to subside. But this isn’t always the case.   Occasionally, the inflammatory process doesn’t resolve as it should.  This might manifest in slower than desired recovery from regular exercise stress or delayed recovery from minor injuries. In other cases, the injury to tissue may be ongoing, causing a chronic inflammatory state.  For example, wear and tear on joint cartilage can cause inflammation as the body attempts to repair the expanding damage as the cartilage thins. In these instances, inflammation can become chronic and can impact the overall immune response.   Maintaining a healthy inflammatory response is critical to overall health.  Fortunately, there are some natural ingredients that can help modulate the inflammatory response.  One of these is curcumin.  Curcumin is the most bioactive component in turmeric and has been clinically researched quite extensively regarding its benefits in helping to curb the inflammatory response. Curcumin exerts its effects mainly through its action in reducing the production of pro-inflammatory substances responsible for perpetuating inflammation.   An additional benefit to curcumin is its strong antioxidant capacity.  It is known that inflammation can promote the release of reactive oxygen compounds (ROS), causing oxidative stress.  These ROS can in turn initiate a cell signaling cascade that enhances pro-inflammatory gene expression, thus perpetuating the inflammatory response.  This dual action of curcumin makes it an ideal supplement ingredient for general immune system maintenance and support of healthy inflammation.    One challenge affecting the optimal functioning of curcumin in the body is its poor absorption and rapid metabolism. Numerous production processes have been incorporated to help overcome this challenge, resulting in ingredients that can be consumed in much lower doses than standard 95% curcumin with equal or better results.  A more recent concern affecting the use and effectiveness of curcumin is the use of synthetic curcumin or preparing the ingredient from substandard turmeric species.  Curcumin suppliers interested in providing high quality curcumin will often employ additional testing, such as Carbon-14 testing to ensure that only natural turmeric from Curcuma longa is used to produce their ingredient.  Companies such as Stratum Nutrition supply a general 95% curcumin ingredient, Curcumin95 as well as an enhanced bioavailability curcumin, BIOCURC®, both of which are derived from natural, Carbon-14 tested turmeric, ensuring an exceptional quality ingredient.   
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What Role Does Inflammation Play in Immune Health? 
The human microbiome consisting of the trillions of bacteria that reside in our GI tracts, on our skin and in our oral cavity, is a source of valuable insight into our health and vulnerability to developing certain disease conditions.  As a result, the market for supplemental bacteria in the form of probiotics has continued to grow.  According to the Global Probiotics Market Report from MarketWatch.com, the probiotics market is currently (2019) valued at USD 42.55 billion and is projected to reach USD 74.69 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 7.3% during that timeframe. [1] There are over 500 species of bacteria residing in the typical healthy human GI tract (and even more if strain differentiation is considered).  Very few of these can be found in the stomach or upper small intestine because of the influence of gastric acid.  Colonization gradually increases throughout the small intestine.  But by far most bacteria reside in the colon.  Initially, most probiotic species were the same types of bacterial species that are naturally found within the GI tract.  The use of indigenous species helps ensure colonization in the intestinal environment.  These probiotic bacteria provide benefits through competitive inhibition, as they compete with undesirable bacteria for space within the intestinal tract. This is especially critical after an antibiotic regimen that destroys pathogenic bacteria but often at the expense of the resident beneficial bacteria.  It is now known that disruptions in the body’s microbiome can have profound effects on health, and that even medications such as antibiotics that may be life-saving can alter the makeup of the intestinal microflora and potentially contribute to the proliferation of undesirable or opportunistic microbial species such as Clostridium difficile or Candida species.  As a result, probiotic intake through fermented foods or supplementation has become a standard medical recommendation after an extended antibiotic regimen.  Many commercial probiotics are designed to help promote efficient digestion.  Part of the function of a healthy microbiome is to produce digestive enzymes, enabling healthy digestion and absorption of critical nutrients.  For example, the enzyme lactase, necessary for the breakdown and intestinal absorption of the milk sugar, lactose, is produced primarily by intestinal epithelial cells in the walls of the small intestine; but it is also produced by certain intestinal bacteria, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.  Supplementing with a lactase-producing probiotic can help alleviate some of the worst symptoms of lactose intolerance.  In addition, we now know that certain probiotic species can help lower pH levels in the colon, potentially facilitating movement of stool through the colon and eliminating constipation.  Probiotics can also help relieve antibiotic-related diarrhea and can help with the absorption of protein, vitamins and minerals. [2]  Commercial probiotic supplements targeting general digestion are often of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera.  The other large category for probiotics is in the area of Immune support.  Not only can the right probiotic bacteria inhibit the growth and colonization of harmful invading bacteria by taking up all of the available space, but some probiotic bacteria may stimulate the body’s production of natural antibodies and boost immune cells, such as IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Lactobacillus acidophilus is known for its benefits in stimulating the gut-mediated immune response, and several proprietary strains of L. acidophilus are commercially available and backed by extensive research.   It is now known that the immune benefits of the body’s protective microbiome don’t begin in the gut, but in the oral cavity, where pathogenic microbes most often enter the body.  The oral cavity is home to as many different species of bacteria, if not more, than the gut; and these bacteria can form an extremely strong barrier against invaders, influencing the health, not only of the teeth and gums, but extending into the throat and ear canals.[3] To a certain extent, these good bacteria function through competitive inhibition, but more importantly, some strains of bacteria like the beneficial oral cavity species, Streptococcus salivarius, can produce compounds called Bacteriocin-Like-Inhibitory-Substances (BLIS).  These compounds are highly inhibitory to specific pathogenic bacteria.  Probiotics derived from indigenous strains of these beneficial bacteria can provide a front-line protection against pathogens entering the body through the mouth and nose.  Some of these strains, such as S. salivarius K12 have been extensively researched for safety and their ability to colonize in the human oral cavity, as well as their efficacy in preventing throat and middle infections.[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] There are other BLIS producing strains of S. salivarius that are more active against pathogenic strains on the teeth and gums.  Persons who have these bacteria as normal occupants of their oral cavity are those who never seem to get cavities or have any periodontal issues.  Based on what we know now about the relationship between the health of the periodontal surfaces and the health of the entire body, these bacterial occupants can be critical for overall health, since the research is mounting that the health of the oral cavity is directly related to the health of the entire body, especially in the area of cardiovascular health.  Probiotic strains such as S. salivarius M18 have been shown to positively impact several areas of dental and periodontal health.[11] [12] [13]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As the probiotic industry has evolved, so has the level of research into the mechanisms through which probiotics exert their influence on the immune system. One area that has been the focus of current research is in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) within the colon. These products of bacterial fermentation appear to have broad positive influence, not just in the colon, but throughout the body. One recent study found that SCFA derived from gut microbiota metabolism play an important role in maintaining host immune composition and repair capacity after a heart attack.[14] Another very recent unpublished research has also demonstrated a dramatic benefit from select probiotic supplementation on the prevention of gastric damage caused by aspirin therapy. As a result of the advances made in the benefits of probiotic supplementation, formulators and manufacturers have also focused attention on the stability of probiotics.  With their popularity has come the desire to put these living bacteria in a myriad of food and supplement formats.  Unfortunately, most of the bacteria that reside within our bodies are very susceptible to temperature, humidity and pressure – all of which are common forces within the manufacturing process.  Therefore, very careful attention must be given in providing the right manufacturing environment for survival. Manufacturing processes that microencapsulate the live bacteria have become very sophisticated and can provide a way to ensure both shelf stability and survival through the acidic conditions of the gastric region to reach their target location in the intestines.  Some of the newer microencapsulation technologies can not only protect the live bacteria from heat and humidity in storage,  but also provide a coating that is invulnerable to the acidic conditions of the stomach, and can strategically release the bacteria when the pH rises, thus enabling viable numbers of probiotics to reach the optimal destination for digestive and immune system support.[15] The desire to incorporate probiotics into more conventional food formats has also led to the rise of probiotics that are derived from spore-forming bacteria.  These bacteria have been shown to have some health benefits and they do have the advantage of survival, but there can be significant challenges for manufacturers because of their persistent nature. Probiotics are not the only way to support a healthy gut microbiome.  Supplemental nutrient sources for the bacteria, or prebiotics, are in some cases the best way to promote a healthy microbial environment, either alone as support to the body’s own indigenous bacteria or as synbiotics, given alongside a probiotic.  Prebiotics are food components, usually dietary fiber, that are not digestible. The benefits of dietary fiber are well-known, impacting such diverse areas as cardiovascular health, digestive health and weight. Most dietary fiber are complex polysaccharides.  However, this has expanded to include oligosaccharides, which are composed of fewer monosaccharides (simple sugars). Oligosaccharides make up most prebiotic fiber.[16] Prebiotics persist intact through the digestive tract to the colon where they are fermented by bacteria and other microorganisms. Consumption of prebiotic foods or supplements can help ensure an optimal food source for colonic bacteria and production of the beneficial compounds (such as the SCFAs) resulting from the fermentation process. Though prebiotics can fairly easily be obtained through the ingestion of certain foods (such as oats that contain beta glucan, and apples, which contain pectin), many of the best sources for prebiotic fiber are foods such as Konjac root and seaweed, that are not regular parts of the western diet.  Therefore, prebiotics are available in supplemental form.  Some prebiotics are also antioxidants and can provide additional benefits to the human host.    The research on probiotics and prebiotics continues to expand as more and more information is uncovered about the positive functions that the human microbiome provides in supporting and maintaining human health.  [1] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-probiotics-market-to-2023-by-application-functional-food--beverages-dietary-supplements-feed-ingredient-bacteria-yeast-form-dry-liquid-end-user-and-region-300781388.html [2] https://www.healthline.com/health/probiotics-and-digestive-health#digestive-health [3]Benef Microbes (2011) 2(2):93-101 [4] Int J Gen Med (2012) 5:991-997 [5] Exp Opin Biol Ther (2013) 13(3):339-43 [6] Drug Healthc Patient Saf (2014) 6:15-20 [7] Int J Gen Med (2015) 8:303-8 [8] Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci (2016) 20(21):4601-06 [9] Minerva Pediatrica (2018) 70(3):240-5 [10] Int J Gen Med (2019) 12:213-17 [11] J Med Microbiol (2013) 62:875-94 [12] Int J Pharma Bio Scie (2015) 6(1):242-50 [13] Clin Cosm Invest Dentistry (2015) 7:107-13 [14] Circulation (2019) 139(5):647-59 [15] Probiotics Antimicrob Proteins (2018) 10(1):1-10 [16] Nutrients (2013) 5(4):1417-35
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Probiotics comprise one of the most popular yet least understood ingredient categories in the dietary supplement industry. They are live bacterial species designed to support health in the same way as the beneficial indigenous bacteria that inhabit our skin, oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract.  Probiotics that are derived from the same strains found in the human body can often colonize after supplementation, crowding out more undesirable strains.  Those that are not derived from human strains are more transient, requiring constant supplementation to gain temporary benefits, since they won’t typically colonize.  Most probiotics are taken for their benefits to immune functioning and/or digestion. Probiotic immune health products support the resident bacteria that are an important part of the portion of the immune system that resides in the gut, mostly in the colon (lower section of the large intestine). In the colon, beneficial bacteria interact with antigens. Antigens are foreign substances, usually proteins, that cause an immune response in the body. They often enter the body via the mouth, harmlessly through the diet or detrimentally on the surface of pathogens.  As a result, the gut encounters more antigens than any other part of the body, and it is crucial that the resident gut bacteria function effectively alongside other parts of the gut-mediated immune system or GALT – (Gut-associated lymphoid tissue).  These important bacteria in the gut produce compounds through their metabolism that directly interact with the GALT response; and when functioning optimally, the GALT system and microbiota together ensure the initiation of protective responses to pathogens and the tolerance to innocuous antigens.[1]   Supplementation with a well-formulated probiotic product can help guarantee that the gut microbiota remain intact and functioning well, which is especially critical after taking antibiotics that destroy many of the resident bacteria along with their targeted pathogens. Immune support probiotics are often derived from species, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, L casei, L salivarius, L lactis, Bifidobacterium bifidum and B lactis, known to naturally inhabit the intestines of healthy individuals. Most of the current probiotic research in the area of immune health centers around gaining a better understanding of the role of probiotics in immunomodulation; focusing on the role of probiotics in humoral, cellular and nonspecific immunity modulation, as well as their role in promoting the immunological barrier.[2] It has been found that specific strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus, L rhamnosus, L delbrueckii, Bifidobacterium lactis, B bifidum, Streptococcus thermophiles, among others, are particularly beneficial. These probiotics can play vital roles in innate immunity, by enhancing the functioning of certain immune cells such as natural killer cells (a specific type of white blood cell), as well as adaptive immunity through their interaction with other immune cells, such as enterocytes (the important absorptive cells that line the inner surface of the small and large intestines).  Probiotics can also provide immunomodulatory effects on proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine production, thus helping to guide the immune system to a more beneficial inflammatory response. This influence on intestinal inflammation can be particularly helpful for those who have intestinal challenges that are caused by a dysfunctional inflammatory response, such as colitis or IBD. The importance of the microbiome has expanded to include areas of the body outside the gastrointestinal tract.  Notably, the oral cavity has become a focus of study within the last decade or so, resulting in the development of probiotics designed to work in the mouth and regions of the upper respiratory tract. We now recognize that the oral cavity is home to some 700 species of bacteria,[3] and maintaining a healthy environment of bacterial species in the mouth is crucial to overall health. In addition to probiotics designed to support dental health, oral cavity probiotics can also be extremely beneficial to immune health, particularly in the upper respiratory tract. Ideally these probiotics are derived from species that are indigenous to the human oral cavity.  Most function predominantly through competitive inhibition, crowding out detrimental species that enter the body through the nose and mouth.  Others produce protective substances, called bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances (BLIS) that target unfavorable strains and limit their entry into the body. Streptococcus salivarius is one of the most common species of bacteria in the oral cavity of healthy individuals and several strains do produce favorable BLIS.[4] There is extensive background research establishing the safety and efficacy of these strains.  One particularly beneficial S. salivarius strain is the K12 strain.  This is a rare human-derived strain that is particularly beneficial in inhibiting such species as S. pyogenes and Moraxella catarrhalis. The breadth of human studies in young children make it a particularly desirable probiotic for supporting immune health in the very young. [5][6] As the study of the human microbiome expands along with our knowledge of the myriad of ways in which it impacts our overall health, so will the desire for appropriate probiotics to support our own body’s microbiota.      References   [1] Belkaid Y and Hand T. (2014) Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell 157(1):121-141. [2] Azad MAK, S M and Wan D. (2018) Immunomodulatory effects of probiotics on cytokine profiles. Biomed Res Int doi:10.1155/2018/8063647 [3] Aas JA, Paster BJ, Stokes LN, Olsen I and Dewhirst FE. (2005) Defining the normal bacterial flora of the oral cavity. J Clin Microbiol 43(11):5721-5732. [4] Burton JP, Wescombe PA, Cadieux PA and Tagg JR (2011) Beneficial microbes for the oral cavity: time to harness the oral streptococci? Benef Microbes 2(2):93-101. [5] Di Pierro F et al. (2018) Use of Streptococcus salivarius K12 to reduce the incidence of pharyngo-tonsillitis and acute otitis media in children: a retrospective analysis in not-recurrent pediatric subjects. Minerva Pediatr 70(3):240-245. [6] Marini G et al. (2019) Pilot study to explore the prophylactic efficacy of oral probiotic Streptococcus salivarius K12 in preventing recurrent pharyngo-tonsillar episodes in pediatric patients. Int J Gen Med 12:213-217.
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Probiotics for Immune Health
Fatty acid (FA) supplements, particularly those containing omega-3 fatty acids, have become one of the top ingredient categories within the dietary supplement industry. Both omega-3 and omega-6 FAs are structural components of cell membranes, are sources of energy and are precursors to lipid mediators that play vital roles in immune and inflammatory responses; and the typical Western diet doesn’t provide the best balance of these nutrients on its own. But, the way these important fats work in the body involves complex metabolic pathways that should be at least minimally understood in order to know and understand the best way to supplement with them. There are only two truly essential FAs, meaning that our bodies cannot make them. Our diet needs to include the omega-3 FA, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the omega-6 FA, linoleic acid (LA). Green leafy vegetables, nuts, (particularly walnuts) and seeds such as flaxseed are good sources of ALA. LA is found in abundance in plant oils, including sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils. Adequate dietary intake of ALA and LA can then provide the initial building blocks for the body to make the longer-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that it needs to maintain optimal health and functioning. Ideally, the diet should contain a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of from 1:1 to 4:1, but unfortunately, the current Western diet contains a much higher proportion of LA, ranging from 15:1 to almost 30:1 by some estimates, due to our overconsumption of processed foods that are prepared with omega-6 oils. As a result, most of the current focus has been on our need for increasing omega-3 fatty acid intakes. In the body, ALA metabolizes first to stearidonic acid (SDA), a longer chain FA that possesses many of the same attributes as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), mostly through its role as an anti-inflammatory.[1] Through a series of reactions, SDA ultimately metabolizes to EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two key omega-3s that have been researched for many health benefits. Likewise, LA metabolizes to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and under many conditions on to arachidonic acid (AA). GLA and DGLA are linked to the production of anti-inflammatory substances and are beneficial in maintaining brain function, skeletal and reproductive health, and metabolism. They are also essential for stimulating skin and hair growth. On the other hand, AA is pro-inflammatory and plays a vital role in initiating the inflammatory process. Under optimal conditions, consuming a diet that contains balanced amounts of foods containing both ALA and LA would result in enough of the end-products of their metabolism for our bodies to function as they should and maintain health. But, unfortunately, it is not that simple. The metabolic pathways of ALA and LA share several enzymes needed for the various intermediate reactions and are also influenced by the relative levels of longer chain fatty acids produced by the reactions occurring in the other pathway. For instance, adequate levels of EPA must be present for the conversion of the omega-6 FA, DGLA to anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. If there isn’t enough, the reaction will favor the production of the pro-inflammatory fatty acid, arachidonic acid.[2] One of the main factors that influence the metabolic pathways of both essential fatty acids is the requirement of a rate-limiting enzyme called delta-6-desaturase (D6D) as well as the cofactors for the reaction, including magnesium, zinc and vitamin B6. These are necessary to facilitate the first reaction in both pathways. This reaction is slow and can be inhibited by multiple factors that affect many people, including medication, illness, aging and nutrient deficiencies. So, it is not uncommon for the metabolism of the essential fatty acids to stop at the very first step, which can have disastrous effects on human health. Without D6D and the cofactors needed to initiate the reaction, ALA cannot metabolize to SDA, and LA cannot metabolize to GLA, so the benefits of GLA, SDA, EPA and DHA are lost. Ultimately, these crucial omega fatty acids become conditionally essential as the body can no longer make them and they must be obtained through diet or supplementation. This has opened the door to selective supplementation. The most widely recognized fatty acid supplement type is fish oil. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, the endpoints of omega-3 fatty acid metabolism. EPA is recognized mostly for its anti-inflammatory attributes and benefits in reducing the risk of chronic diseases linked to inflammation, such as heart disease. DHA is integral to brain development and function as well as eye health. EPA and DHA are only found naturally in marine sources, including oily fish, krill and algae. The dietary sources (oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines) are also less likely to be a regular part of the Western diet, contributing to the potential for deficiency. Because of the overabundance of LA in our diets, less attention has been given to the potential for omega-6 deficiencies due to deficiency of D6D. This is unfortunate because GLA/DGLA do play important roles in the body that can also be compromised. In addition, the overall balance in the omega-6 and omega-3 metabolic pathways due to the sharing of enzymes and cofactors that the body tries to maintain could be disrupted; so supplementing with just the end-products of the omega-3 fatty acid pathway may not always be the best option. For some individuals who have low serum levels of EPA and DHA, due to inefficient conversion from ALA and/or no dietary intake through food sources, supplementation with these two omega-3s might be beneficial, and high-quality fish, krill or algal oil supplements with a ratio of EPA to DHA of around 2:1 are generally recommended. Also, pregnant women may want to consider DHA supplementation to help support neurological development. For those who are not deficient in EPA or DHA, EPA/DHA supplementation alone may not be best and could be detrimental in high doses.[3] For persons who are deficient in the key enzyme (D6D) or one of the cofactors needed to begin the first reaction in the metabolic pathway of both ALA and LA, a different approach to supplementation may be preferable. In addition, some recognize a need for fatty acid supplementation, but do not wish to consume fish or take marine sourced supplements. As a result, additional options in fatty acid supplementation have arisen to meet these needs. Flaxseed, hemp and chia seed oils have gained in popularity because they are vegetarian sources of the omega-3, ALA. They are marketed to offset the high levels of LA consumed by so many through diet. These can be beneficial to many, but only those who are not deficient in D6D or its cofactors. In addition, GLA supplements have experienced an increase in popularity in products marketed for general inflammation support, women’s needs related to hormonal fluctuations and for conditions that affect the skin. But for many who desire a more balanced fatty acid option and general support to offset potential broader deficiencies, supplementing with a blend of fatty acids including ALA, LA, GLA, SDA and perhaps also DHA and EPA might provide the best choice, but would most likely necessitate supplementing with several different products. Another choice would be a plant source that contains not only ALA and LA, but also the next important fatty acids past the crucial enzyme-dependent step in both the omega-3 and omega-6 pathways. Ahiflower seed oil, derived from Buglossoides arvensis, a plant native to the British Isles, is not only a good source of both ALA and LA; it is an excellent source of GLA and is unique in its exceptionally high content of SDA.[4] Supplementation with this one ingredient helps ensure the necessary building blocks for the body to naturally complete the omega-3 and omega-6 pathways, and also reap the benefits derived from the intermediate fatty acids, GLA and SDA.[5] It is becoming increasingly apparent that supplementation with omega fatty acids, just like many other important nutrients, is not a “one size fits all,” but instead can, and should be tailored to an individual’s own diet and lifestyle. Probably most, if not all of us need to consider some type of omega fatty acid supplementation because of the extensive role they play in maintaining overall health, beginning in every cell in our bodies. And now, more than ever, it is possible to select the right supplement to fit our individual needs and preferences.   Article Published by: Nutraceuticals Now References:  [1] Lipids (2017) 52:781-787 [2] Eur J Pharmacol (2016) 785:77-86 [3] Transl Psychiatry (2019) 9(1):303 [4] Mol Nutr Food Res (2013) 00:1-12 [5] Nutrients (2017) 9(3). pii:E261
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Omega Fatty Acid Supplementation, Not Limited to Fish Oil
Prior to introducing a new ingredient to market, it is important to verify its safety and effectiveness for use in humans. Well-designed research not only supplies this substantiation, but it provides the basis upon which Structure/Function claims can be made. Since conducting research is an expensive endeavor, ingredient developers must determine where to start in deciding what types of studies to undertake. Safety studies are paramount and are necessary for a new dietary ingredient (NDI) or self-affirmed GRAS submission. These usually entail a series of in vitro and animal studies that can provide a sound basis for determining the upper dosage levels and safety for long term use. For ingredients in which the safety in humans has already been confirmed, most companies will opt to conduct a human clinical trial (interventional study). The FDA and FTC prefer that these studies be designed as randomized, placebo-controlled trials (RCTs) to substantiate claims. Ideally, they should be double or tripled-blinded. However, observational studies can also provide valuable information regarding an ingredient’s effectiveness and can provide additional support for RCTs. Another type of study that is critical for fully understanding an ingredient’s safety and functioning is a Mode of Action (MoA) study. MoA studies are usually in vitro cell culture or in vivo animal studies, and can give critical information regarding how an ingredient may be expected to function in the body as well as what body systems or types of cells are impacted. Sometimes these studies can give unexpected insight into how the ingredient works or possibly how it might interact with other ingredients or medications. MoA studies help answer the question of “How?”, after confirming that an ingredient does work, and are especially important in cases where there is an unexpected result in a clinical trial. Hopefully, this provides some insight into the importance of research studies, and how each has its place in providing support for ingredient substantiation. Now happy researching! Looking for a partner to help you launch successful products? Contact us today.
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