Herb Groups Fine Tune Adulterants Program

Adulteration, whether by accident or on purpose, has always been a concern. Overall, the dietary supplement industry has done a respectable job of implementing protocols to prevent this from happening.

Now, three key industry entities – American Botanical Council, American Herbal Pharmocopoeia, and the National Institute for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi — have decided collectively to clarify its mission of reducing risk of adulteration by emphasizing prevention: the former Botanical Adulterants Program is now officially known as “The Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP).

The mission of this venture is, according to a release from the American Botanical Council “to raise awareness of issues of adulteration in the herbal trade, confirm the extent of adulteration in the United States and global markets, and provide guidance on which official or unofficial analytical methods are currently available and fit for purpose to help detect the presence (or absence) of a suspected or known adulterant.”

There are many parts to the program, and one of them is the release of reports entitled “Botanical Adulterants Bulletins;” the two latest are cranberry extracts and ginkgo leaf extracts. Another effort is the creation of an industry-accepted best practice standardized operation procedure (SOP) on disposal and destruction of materials that are irreparably defective. The goal is to eliminate such materials completely from the supply chain.

Stefan Gafner, PhD, who serves both as Chief Science Officer, American Botanical Council (Texas), and Technical Director, ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, reported in Botanical Adulterants Monitor, a publication offered by American Botanical Council, that an investigation by the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (CAFIA) into the authenticity of 15 chlorella powders revealed adulteration with spirulina in two products. “Quality control of ingredients made from microalgae is challenging, and the results of the investigation highlight the importance of appropriate test methods to verify the identity of such materials,” Dr. Gafner wrote.

He also noted that researchers from Network Nutrition-IMCD in Australia reported that once again, adulteration of commercial ginkgo dietary supplements. The researchers found that six extracts contained genistein (1% or more), evidence of adulteration by Japanese sophora extract based on six extracts having genistein, Overall, 14 out of the 15 samples analyzed were deemed to be noncompliant with the requirements in USP’s monograph for ginkgo leaf extracts.

The Botanical Adulterants Monitor also includes five summaries of recently published papers looking at adulteration in several botanical products.

One study (Booker et al) investigated the authenticity and quality of St. John’s wort supplements using proton nuclear magnetic resonance and high-performance thin-layer chromatography, and established differences in the fingerprints depending on the geographical origin, i.e., material sourced in Europe or in China. The researchers also found evidence of continual adulteration of St. John’s wort with food dyes.

Another study (Ruhsam and Hollingsworth) using DNA barcoding analysis of commercial eleuthero and rhodiola dietary supplements sold in the United Kingdom show that substitution with related species from the same genus is common. Dr. Gafner commented, “It is not clear if the admixture and substitution is due to the similarity of the common names in China, from which the ingredients are most often sourced, the possible interchangeable use of plants from the genus Eleutherococcus and those within the genus Rhodiola, or if financial motivation plays a role in this.”

We at Cactus Botanics support these efforts and we encourage you to become more proactive and vigilant as well.


Red Yeast Rice: Compelling for Cholesterol Control

Red yeast rice recently made news as a report emerged showing tremendous disparity of the active ingredient (monacolin K) in red yeast rice products on the shelves. Red yeast rice is made by fermenting rice with a variety of yeast strains, which yields a natural compound called monacolin K. Monacolin K has been shown in studies to act similarly to lovastatin in controlling unhealthy cholesterol levels; lovastatin is the active ingredient tin the prescription Mevacor.

In the study, university researchers looked at 28 popular brands of red yeast rice supplements sold in retailers such as GNC, Walgreens and more, and found that amounts were wide ranging, as far as 60-fold. Although this is much more a matter of following regulatory protocol and utilizing proper testing methodologies for authenticity of contents, we believe that it also shows the relevance of red yeast rice supplements for cardiovascular health, notably cholesterol profile management. When university study teams decide to invest significant time and money to investigate a dietary supplement ingredient that is available at the most popular retail chains, this means that the ingredient is taken seriously as a viable dietary supplement.

Cactus Botanics just launched red yeast rice, because, according to the CDC, only one out of three American adults with high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) has it under control – and many are leery of taking drugs to get it int0 healthy range. There are many people who are sensitive to statin therapy and seek natural alternatives to manage their cholesterol. In 2014, US sales of red yeast rice supplements reached approximately $40 million.

The science is compelling, and makes a strong case for red yeast rice to help manage cholesterol (along, of course, with a healthy diet). For example, a 2014 meta-analysis of red yeast rice and cholesterol was quite positive in its results and conclusion. The team reviewed 13 randomized, placebo-controlled trials with 804 participants. The data showed that red yeast rice supplements overall was responsible for significant lowering effects on total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein, but no effect on high density lipoprotein. The authors concluded that red yeast rice is effective to use as a dietary supplement to help manage healthy cholesterol profiles. 1

High cholesterol is often the result of the combination of genetics (high LDL production in the liver) and long-term diet of fatty foods. This condition can contribute significantly to the development of coronary artery disease.

Please contact us today to discuss how red yeast rice can work for your cardiovascular health formulas.

  • Li J, et al. “A meta-analysis of red yeast rice: An effective and relatively safe alternative approach for dyslipidemia.” PLoS One. 2014;9(6): e98611.

Studies: Exercise Keeps Your Brain Young

A new study from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute suggests that the lower the fitness level, the faster the deterioration of vital nerve fibers in the brain, which often results in cognitive decline, including memory issues characteristic in dementia.

“This research supports the hypothesis that improving people’s fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process,” said study author Dr. Kan Ding, a neurologist from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.

The study authors concentrated in a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is composed of millions of bundles of nerve fibers used by neurons to communicate across the brain, in older patients at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s Disease; they showed signs of memory loss and/or mild cognitive impairment. The researchers determined that lower fitness levels were associated with weaker white matter, which in turn correlated with lower brain function.

The team measured cardiorespiratory fitness via maximal oxygen uptake, as well as brain imaging to measure white matter functionality. Participants were then given memory and other cognitive tests to measure brain function, allowing scientists to establish clear and compelling correlations between exercise, brain health, and cognition. 1

Another new study showed benefit between running (cardio) and effects of chronic stress in the brain, notably that regular running can help protect memory ability. The researchers found that running mitigates the negative impacts that chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said study lead author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.

Inside the hippocampus, memory formation and recall occur optimally when the synapses or connections between neurons are strengthened over time, in a process known as long-term potentiation (LTP). This process is impeded and enervated through chronic or prolonged stress — ultimately impacting memory. Edwards’ study found that when a stressed being exercises LTP levels remain normal.

This study in stress-induced mice showed that those that exercised (wheel running) while stressed had significantly greater LTP than those that did not exercise. One hour after stress induction researchers carried out electrophysiology experiments on the animals’ brains to measure the LTP. The team also found that stressed mice that exercised performed just as well with memory as non-stressed mice that exercised in a maze – and the mice that exercised made significantly fewer memory errors in the maze than the sedentary mice.

“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards said. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.” 2

1 Kan Ding, et al. “Cardiorespiratory Fitness and White Matter Neuronal Fiber Integrity in Mild Cognitive Impairment.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017; 61 (2): 729 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-170415

2 Miller, R., et al. “Running exercise mitigates the negative consequences of chronic stress on dorsal hippocampal long-term potentiation in male mice.” Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 2018; 149: 28 DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.01.008

Plant-Based Proteins Gaining Consumer Preference

A new market research report from Mintel describes how consumers feel and use plant-based proteins – these are finally giving animal-based proteins a serious run for their money.

Some facts elicited by the researchers:

A release describing the data culled, cites that while taste tops the list of reasons to eat plant-based proteins, perceived health benefits are on consumers’ minds as nearly half (46 percent) of Americans agree that plant-based proteins are better for you than animal-based options, and three quarters (76 percent) say plant-based foods are healthy. Whether a desire to avoid processed foods (39 percent), manage weight (31 percent) or promote muscle growth (16 percent), many plant-based protein consumers are motivated by maintaining or improving their health and well-being.

When it comes to making decisions in the grocery aisle, again, taste (65 percent) is the driving factor for those who eat plant-based proteins, followed by health-centric attributes. These consumers are more likely to seek plant-based protein products with no artificial ingredients (41 percent), that are high in protein (35 percent) and fiber (28 percent), and those that are non-GMO (28 percent). Non-GMO claims in particular are driving innovation in the category, as US launches of foods and beverages with plant-based proteins with a non-GMO claim grew from 3.8 percent in 2012 to 19.6 percent in 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Billy Roberts, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, explained, “Americans are more and more avoiding food products with artificial ingredients and GMOs, and vegetarian, vegan and free-from foods have grown to be regarded as healthier options. Despite the fact that health attributes, particularly free-from, factor strongly in consumer decisions when purchasing plant-based proteins, at the end of the day, taste is the driving force behind purchase and eating decisions. While overall consumption of plant-based proteins remains low, these products benefit from a generally healthy reputation both for consumers’ diets and for the environment, and growing consumer interest in better-for-you lifestyles will continue to drive interest in the category.”

While healthy and functional attributes are of interest to consumers, with less than half (46 percent) of Americans saying they trust the functional claims made by plant-based foods, there is opportunity for brands to further communicate the benefits. In fact, seven in 10 (71 percent) Americans agree that brands should provide more information about product/ingredient origin on packaging.

Roberts added, “Busy consumers look for shortcuts for how to live well, and labels offer a quick and easy understanding about what a product contains and how it has been treated. In order to appeal to consumers, brands should offer a tasty product offering boasting no artificial ingredients, protein content, non-GMO, and fiber content, and be sure to highlight these features on-pack.”

Cactus Botanics recently launched versatile and nutritious plant-based proteins – pumpkin protein powder and hemp protein powder for a wide variety of products. Our pumpkin protein powder supports mood by sustaining healthy serotonin production, and has magnesium and zinc that are involved in enzyme reactions and muscle growth. It has an attractive macronutrient profile. Our hemp protein powder is suitable for those who are allergic to egg, milk, gluten and/or soybeans, is a good source of omega-3 EFAs, vitamins, minerals and fiber, and can support both thermogenesis and muscle growth and recovery.

Happy Chinese New Year

This February 16 marked the beginning of the celebration of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Dog.  For the several billion Asians living throughout the world, we know this year not to be 2018 but 4716, as the traditional Chinese calendar follows a lunisolar cycle. The lunisolar calendar combines the lunar (moon) phases and the solar cycle, which is why the new year begins on different Gregorian calendar dates.

Before celebrants begin festivities, homes are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned to symbolically remove the “old” and welcome the “new.” Then, decorations are hung – and if you have seen any Chinese New Year celebration, you see the color red is prominent. This is because the Chinese believe that red is the color of good luck, good energy, good fortune, happiness and success.

Family dinners on the eve of the Chinese New Year is a very important part of the tradition; elders are honored and the family is held sacred, so starting the new year together is an idea held closely.  At midnight fireworks are launched, and there are many Dragon Dances are part of the ceremony; the dragon is a key symbol of wealth, power and wisdom.

This new year is the year of the dog, which is the 11th animal in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac. The dog is, of course, man’s most loyal friend, who keenly understands our spirit, and loves us unconditionally.

At Cactus Botanics, we wish all of you a healthy and wealthy new year.

Addressing Stress for Immune Health

This winter, reports emanating from such august health agencies as the CDC have reported that flu has been particularly virulent in January. As a leading supplier in science-backed ingredients for whole body health, we have decided to launch four new ingredients that may be used successfully in a wide variety of immune-support formulas (supplements and beverages).

Immunity is an aspect of health most people take for granted as they don’t feel it working when they feel well and active. When a cold or flu (or other issue) arises, then the thought of one’s immune system becomes prominent. When wellness sets in again, many people will begin a regimen to protect themselves during outbreak seasons (winter, and spring for allergies). But what many people do not understand is the link between stress, both acute and chronic, and the onset of a cold or flu, or other conditions.

Stress causes the body to respond by releasing high levels of cortisol (“the stress hormone”), which, in specific situations is beneficial but when constant, can cause interference with the immune system. This results in inflammation and reduction in the body’s ability to create white blood cells (lymphocytes—B and T cells). This then leads to susceptibility to infection, and other issues, such as asthma and gastric distress.

And, globally, individuals of all ages feel more stressed than ever. As a result, Cactus Botanics has been inspired to focus on immune support with four new ingredients:

Honeysuckle Flower Powder Extract — Honeysuckle flower has been used as a remedy for influenza in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response and lessens discomfort
  • Supports immune function and help fight seasonal assaults
  • Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Ginger Powder Extract — A highly popular culinary spice, ginger also has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response and lessens discomfort
  • Supports relief of nausea and aids in digestion
  • Supports healthy cardiovascular function

Isatis Powder Extract — Isatis is traditionally used to support against symptoms of winter ailments, and is used widely in recent years in modern Traditional Chinese clinical practices.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response
  • Supports healthy immune function
  • Supports against fever

Baikal Skullcap Powder Extract —  The roots of Baikal skullcap are widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a large scope of health concerns.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response
  • Calms anxiety and nervousness
  • Supports against fever

Celebrate Heart Health Month by Formulating for All Women

February is Heart Health Awareness Month, and it is always a sound (and profitable) idea to formulate supplements and nutra-foods/beverages for women who fear suffering from heart disease.

At Cactus Botanics, we have several ingredients for heart health, of which you may contact us to discuss more in detail. Here, we want to present compelling facts released by the American Heart Association about how heart disease affects the multitude of women living in North America. First and foremost, it is not a man’s disease: cardiovascular disease kills more women than men, accounting for the deaths of one in three women each year – amounting to one every minute.

  • 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women’s survival continues to widen.
  • An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
  • Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
  • 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education.
  • Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.

When considering formulating natural heart-health products for women, look at fulfilling the needs of two major ethnic groups:  hispanic women and African-American women. The statistics from AHA show that these two groups are in need of such products.

Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women, and cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality in this group. Although it kills nearly 21,000 Hispanic women annually, only one in three are aware that heart disease is their number-one killer.

African-American women can also benefit from heart-health supplements – as heart disease kills nearly 50,000 of them annually. Along with products for them (and for the Hispanic community), educational efforts are really needed:  unfortunately, according to the AHA, only 36% of African-American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk, and only 52% of them are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

But don’t forget about physically fit and seemingly lean women. The AHA asserts that risk for heart disease among women who are physically fit isn’t completely eliminated – and many thin women may have high cholesterol, especially those who smoke and have poor eating habits.

Although formulating for efficacy is a smooth process when working with suppliers such as Cactus Botanics, we encourage you to market specifically to demographics of women who would heed the message and be motivated to develop a solid heart-healthy regimen that is anchored by your supplement line.

Get In the Know

At Cactus Botanics, we see firsthand how much information is generated at the scientific level (universities, etc.) and how much mass media stories try to translate and disseminate to consumers. However, although education is something we in the dietary supplement industry applaud, there are gaps in understanding, misperceptions and downright wrong interpretations of research. We just came across an ongoing initiative that excites us.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health, has launched “Know the Science,” a consumer educational initiative, in November 2017. The aim of the program is to clarify and explain scientific topics related to health research. “Know the Science” features a variety of materials including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos to provide engaging, straightforward content for consumers to dive in and get to know the science. While complementary approaches are occasionally highlighted in examples, the materials cover topics common to all areas of health research.

At NCCIH “we’re studying approaches that are already on the shelf or used by consumers,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., acting director of NCCIH. “It’s part of our mission to not only inform consumers about the research, but equip them with the tools to better understand it and apply it to smart decisions about their health.”

Misinformation about health topics, especially with dietary supplements, is widespread. According to Dr. Shurtleff, “the need for stronger science literacy efforts is especially clear in the complementary and integrative health space, where many approaches are readily available in the marketplace and are often selected for self-care. Recognition of science literacy gaps and identifying opportunities to fill them, led NCCIH to conduct a series of conversations with in-house experts across NIH and well as external stakeholders in the field.”

These groups’ input, and feedback from a team from the NCCIH Advisory Council, led to the development of the Know the Science initiative that encompasses several resources such as informative guides and interactive modules. Topics include “The facts about health news stories,” and “how medications and supplements can interact.”

At Cactus Botanics, it is a mission to ensure credible science is translated clearly and compellingly to consumers who invest in our products – as well as trust in and expect them to work. We applaud the Know the Science initiative and are excited to know it will help promote health news literacy for the growing number of interested consumers.

We encourage you to visit Know the Science at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/know-science. This portal also links to informative content from the National Library of Medicine, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and other Federal resources designed to help consumers make sense of health information. NCCIH will continue to introduce new Know the Science.

Fucoxanthin for Fat Burning

Although new year’s resolution time is over, and many people already broke them, there’s still time to get back on the fitness and weight-management wagon. Fucoxanthin is a sustainably harvested seaweed active ingredient that can be used by consumers as part of an overall healthy lifestyle approach to reaching fitness goals and staying within a desirable BMI range.

Normal aging brings about the slowing down of metabolism allowing for the denser accrual of white body fat (the kind that displeases all of us). Increasing metabolic rate uses up the stores of undesirable white fat and prevents quick accrual of more.

The carotenoid fucoxanthin, found in brown seaweeds, has been shown to help do just that. It is a non-stimulatory ingredient that accelerates thermogenesis and improve inflammatory response. It helps thermogenesis by activating mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP 1), which focuses on “burning” stored fat.

In animal model study (Maeda H, et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jul), Japanese researchers found that the subjects showed expression of UCP 1 in white adipose tissue in those that were supplemented with fucoxanthin; UCP 1 is normally found in brown fat, a type of fat that generates heat, is dense, and is considered to be the “good” fat. The researchers speculated that perhaps fucoxanthin can trick the white fat into mimicking brown fat’s thermogenesis activity, thereby accelerating metabolic rate and fat loss. Relatedly, other studies on both animals and humans showed that fucoxanthin may help increase resting metabolic rate.

According to Miyashita et al, in their chapter,Therapeutic Effect of Fucoxanthin on Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes” in the 2012 book, Nutritional and Therapeutic Interventions for Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, “Fucoxanthin is effective in subjects with obesity and with metabolic disorders, and is devoid of any activity in lean subjects. In addition, the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of fucoxanthin have been characterized and its biological effect can be improved by the selective accumulation of fucoxanthin metabolites in the target organ, visceral WAT. Fucoxanthin will be a desirable nutraceutical to alleviate obesity and metabolic disorders.”
Fat burning products will be sought by millions of consumers who want to get into great shape before summer, “bikini season.” Fucoxanthin is a desirable ingredient for shape-promoting formulas. Cactus Botanics offers fucoxanthin for a variety of health products. Please contact us for more information – info@cactusbotanics.com.

Linoleic Acid May Lower Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is caused by several biochemicals, one being C-reactive protein (CRP). And, as we have been told for a while, too much omega-6 fatty acids in the diet can increase low-grade inflammation. But a new study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that one omega-6 – linoleic acid – in serum appears to lower CRP, thus lessening inflammation in the body.

C-reactive protein, or CRP, levels were measured from 1,287 healthy men aged 42 to 60 at the onset of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study in 1984-1989 at the University of Eastern Finland.

The study found that a low serum linoleic acid level was associated with higher serum CRP levels. According to the study authors, when participants were divided into four groups based on their serum linoleic acid levels, the probability for an elevated CRP was 53% lower in the highest quarter compared to the lowest one.

This study supports the results of earlier trials, which have shown that even a very high intake of linoleic acid does not increase inflammatory responses. The body converts linoleic acid into various compounds that alleviate inflammation. Linoleic acid, which is an essential omega-6 fatty acid, has been linked with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes type 2, wherein low-grade inflammation is a significant risk factor. Serum linoleic acid level is primarily incurred by diet — the main sources of linoleic acid are vegetable oils, plant-based spreads, nuts and seeds.

While linoleic acid is a “good guy” omega-6, when omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in serum are about even, other omega 6 fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid, gamma-linolenic acid or dihomo-y-linolenic acid are largely benign, and previous studies show they are not associated with CRP levels.

Omega-e EFAs, meanwhile, are essential for maintaining good health, and we recommend that, as Americans still tend to have heavily imbalanced ratios of omega-3 to omega-6, formulating with ingredients such as seaweeds that contain omega-3 EFAs is something to consider.

Virtanen et al. “The associations of serum n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids with serum C-reactive protein in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41430-017-0009-6