The news is a big coup for Sabinsa, since it is the company's first patent in Japan. It means that no other black pepper extract can be used in supplements sold there for the purpose of enhancing the bioavailability. The Japanese dietary supplements market was last year valued at around $11m by US-based market analyst Paul Yamaguchi. According to Sabinsa's VP of scientific and medical affairs Vladimir Badmaev, MD, PhD, Sabinsa began developing Bioperine in the early 1990 to enhance nutrient absorption and bioavailability. "As the population continues to age, improving nutrient absorption and bioavailability is going to become an even more critical component in helping individuals prevent disease and maintain overall health," he said. Humans' ability to absorb nutrients can be impaired by age-related diseases and health conditions, such as declining renal function and atrophic gastritis. Thus, the ingredient has great potential for use in supplements targeted at the older end of the consumer spectrum. And in Japan, this represents a major opportunity since the country has one of the fastest ageing populations in the world. Prolonged low birth rates meant that, in 2005, 21 per cent of the population was aged over 65. The efficacy of Bioperine in boosting bioavailability has been demonstrated in clinical trials, says the company. In addition to the new Japanese patent, Sabinsa also has patents on Bioperine in the US and Europe, and international patents pending.