The company claims that its combination of the compounds D-mannitol (a sugar alcohol) and L-Proline (an amino acid) at a 12000 mg proprietary mixture along with selenium protects against DNA damage and in turn slows down this degenerative process of ageing.
NutraIngredients spoke with the Dutch start-up's CEO, Rein Strijker, to discuss the launch of its product Promanna onto the Dutch market. The twice daily powder supplement is the first product to be released by the company that was officially started in May this year.
DNA damage: pharma meets nutrition
“The whole field of DNA damage is a very exciting field, also in the pharmaceutical field people are now starting to look at that and the pathways that affect DNA damage. They seem to have a very important biological activity. And what is important in the pharmaceutical field is also important in the nutritional field of course,” Strijker said.
“What I see here in The Netherlands, locally, is that the fields of life sciences and bio-tech are really moving much more into health [away from disease],” he explained. “Now there’s much more looking into staying healthy rather than becoming healthy and preventative approaches are getting much more attention.”
Strijker said he has seen a clear shift towards non-pharma health through nutrition and food supplements and he predicts the industry will continue to go this way.
Strijker worked within pharmaceutical life sciences and had originally intended to develop pharmaceutical products that looked at healthy ageing. “But when we discovered that the compounds that were most affective were D-mannitol and L-Proline we realised that we may be looking at the wrong thing and that nutrition and lifestyle are a better target to aging than pharmaceuticals anyway.”
"What these compound do is they activate the cells own antioxidant system. So we have several enzymes in our cells that protect DNA and molecules from damage by radicals. And these enzymes are activated, effective production is activated, by D-mannitol and L-Proline and we've done actually quite a bit of research in the field to understand what pathways are activated. We know for instance a pathway called NRF2," he said.
Strijker said that most studies within this field have not been published yet, but pointed toward research recently published by scientists at Harvard which looked at DNA damage in the development of degenerative diseases and the role of modifiers in this process in diet and otherwise to prevent or delay those diseases.
The European Commission’s agency, Eurostat, estimates that the percentage of people in Europe aged 65 and older will increase from 17% to 30% by 2050 prompting focus to fall on the need for new dietary strategies to cope with this.
“I think the opportunity is really fascinating. Ageing is clearly linked to DNA damage and DNA damage is perhaps more important than some people realise. It’s really at the basis of many degenerative processes, including aging,” Strijker told NutraIngredients.
Strijker said that his company approaches this opportunity from a scientific and technology base - working from research-to-product rather than product-to-research.
“I think science really has to be on the basis of products that do something in ageing. And I’m not pretending we are the only ones doing it but we take a different approach than many of the classical supplement companies who have existing products and then build the research around that,” he said.
Strijker said that Promanna works to prevent DNA damage associated with ageing for healthy people but could also be helpful for those who may be more prone to these degenerative effects like diabetics, smokers and endurance athletes.
VitalneXt BV intends to develop other products within the healthy ageing field looking at issues like malnutrition and the company has global plans already in the pipeline with distributors from Asia and other parts of Europe.
In 2009 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that "a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary intake of selenium and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage, normal function of the immune system, normal thyroid function and normal spermatogenesis". However claims referring to cognitive functioning, heart and blood vessels were dismissed.
Promanna also contains a cocktail of other vitamins including vitamin B6 which a study this year linked to DNA protection.
According to Strijker: "All data point in the same direction: Promanna reduces DNA-damage by activating the body's own defence system against radicals. We are quite confident that the effects we are currently seeing can be translated in health claims to be approved by EFSA (in the field of healthy ageing)."