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Hop extract takes science leap into menopause market

By Shane Starling in Geneva , 09-May-2008

French supplier Naturex has launched a botanical ingredient aimed at the women's menopausal market it claims offers a scientifically-backed alternative to existing menopausal relievers such as soy extracts, flax, red clover and black cohosh.

Although Naturex already offers the likes of red clover and black cohosh as raw materials it said its new ingredient, called Lifenol, had a higher level of supporting clinical data that would bring certainty to what it calls a "confused market". "It will sell at a premium as a result," Karine Nardon, of Naturex's Actifs Innovants division told NutraIngredients at Vitafoods in Geneva, Switzerland. The ingredient is derived from the female cones of the hop plant, an extraction process the company was granted a patent for in 2005. "We have had the ingredient ready to go for some time," Nardon said. "But we wanted to wait until the clinicals were complete before we brought it to market."


Pharma-based Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the most popular treatment for the relief of post-menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, rashes and mood swings. Studies estimate these symptoms affect about 70 per cent of menopausal women in both America and Europe representing about 51m and 121m women respectively. Science Herbal alternatives to HRT have grown in popularity but lack scientific backing, Narbon said.


"Even other hop extracts on the market do not have the clinical backing we have put together for Lifenol, particularly in relation to hot flushes," she said. It said consuming 120mg per day of Lifenol had been proven to ease hot flushes. "Following the debate initially on HRT, and then certain plant alternatives, it seems fundamental to bring a safe option to menopausal women, representing today a huge albeit confused market," the company said. Naturex's patented process revolved around a unique phytoestrogen composition that included 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN), one of the most active phytoestrogens.


This composition, now known as Lifenol, had been employed in two double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. One concluded Lifenol reduced by double general menopausal symptoms compared to a placebo and was four times more effective than placebo in reducing hot flushes. The other study found similar results. Questionnaires of post-menopausal women found "a strong tendency to the reduction of the total menopause discomforts".


A sophisticated marketing campaign would back the ingredient including a dedicated website devoted to Lifenol. Consumer advertising that may include taking space in women's magazines and other targeted media may follow. The ingredient is targeting the European food supplements market and Narbon said negotiations indicated a product would be on-market by the end of the year. North America and the Asia Pacific would follow.


Naturex's Actifs Innovants division was purchased from fellow French supplier Berkem for €9.5m in January this year and Lifenol is its first major activity within the division since the acquisition.

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