Kunpoong Bio of South Korea is turning to Europe as the next major market for its chitosan oligosaccharide product, which it claims has a 50 per cent share of the domestic market for chitosan-based raw materials. The company has been exporting to Japan for 10 years, but this will be the first time it has ventured outside Asia.
Kunpoong Bio claims that its ingredient, Chitoligo-C, differs from other polymeric chitosan derivatives in that it has a low molecular weight and is water-soluble, extending its versatility for use in a number of different food and dietary supplement formats.
Like other forms of chitosan, it can act as a cholesterol-binder in the gastrointestinal tract and is claimed to achieve a reduction in cholesterol absorption by causing ingested fat to be passed in the faeces. However, Kunpoong does not emphasise this property, preferring instead to focus on the product's bifidogenic prebiotic effect which it claims is more potent than that of oligofructose.
The company also claims that Chitoligo-C has been shown to reduce post-prandial hyperglycemia in a rat model of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, as well as reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides and boost immunity (elevating natural killer cell activity) in other animal studies. The addition of vitamin C to the molecule also provides antioxidant activity, according to the firm, while there are indications that the ingredient can support liver function, offsetting hepatic damage caused by chronic alcohol ingestion in mice.
Aside from these activities, Kunpoong also claims a significant safety advantage over polymeric forms of chitosan, in that Chitoligo-C does not affect the excretion of fat-soluble vitamins and mineral salts. This effect has been observed with other forms of chitosan and could lead to bone mineral density problems with protracted use, said Sun-Ho Kim, Kunpoong's director of marketing and business development, adding that polymeric chitosan is not allowed to be used as a health food ingredient in Korea because of this property.
Kunpoong has targeted the markets in Italy, Spain and Portugal, where Chitoligo-C is already available via distributors, and is looking to break into France and Germany. In Italy, the Docteur Nature company launched Nocalory capsules containing Chitoligo-C two years back, while Spanish firm Nutraceuticos has also become a customer. In Japan, Chitoligo-C appears in products sold by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, while in Korea it is found in a range of supplements and foods such as beverages, yoghurt, snacks and porridge.