Made from crab shells, OligoFlex has been used in joint health supplements since its launch in Canada in 2003. Last year, the ingredient was also introduced to the US dietary supplement market. DNP, which manufacturers the ingredient, has already signed a number of distribution agreements to bring OligoFlex to the joint health market. However, the new partnership with Wild marks the ingredient's first foray into the functional food market, where the firm hopes it can be used to position beverages and nutrition bars for the joint health market. The active ingredient in OligoFlex is oligosan, an extract from crustacean shells that has been shown to relieve the pain and swelling associated with strained joints. Oligosan is produced by DNP from crab shells using a patented enzymatic process. According to Heather Biehl, senior scientist at Wild HITS (Health Ingredients & Technology Solutions Division), the ingredient can be used in food and beverage products in association with a "supports joint health" claim. OligoFlex does not as yet have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status, so foods and beverages made with the ingredient need to feature a dietary supplement panel on the label rather than a nutrition facts panel. Rather than pursue GRAS status as the present time, DNP "decided to invest their money instead in more extensive clinical studies," Biehl told NutraIngredients-USA.com. Science DNP said its OligoFlex product has been shown in vitro to increase the production of IL-10, one of the main anti-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that are used for signalling, predominantly, but not exclusively, in the immune health. They are also involved in the inflammatory process and can act as either pro- or anti-inflammatory. OligoFlex is also said to reduce the over expression of the immune system present in the inflammation process, and block pro-inflammation cytokine receptors. The company claims these in vitro results have been further substantiated by in vivo animal studies, saying that this is what primarily distinguishes OligoFlex from glucosamine - the leading joint support product on the market - which has not demonstrated anti-inflammatory effect in vivo. Further information about the new clinical trials that the company will be conducting is not available at this time. However, Biehl said the companies "are hoping that OligoFlex will show significant benefits over glucosamine and chondroitin in joint pain and swelling". Use, marketing, price Wild said it is currently introducing the ingredient to its food and beverage customers, further to formulation tests it has already conducted internally. OligoFlex is an "extremely soluble" powder, and it has a slight salty taste and tan color when added to drinks, said Biehl. However, the company believes that when added at levels of 250-500mg per serving (8 ounce for beverages, 35g for nutrition bars), there is no off-taste or need for masking flavors. These levels were found to be preferable to higher concentrations tested, and the company will encourage companies to market products to be consumed four times a day in order to achieve the minimum 1g per day of the ingredient that is required for the joint benefits. In terms of price, Wild said OligoFlex is more expensive than glucosamine alone, but that it is "roughly the same" price as a glucosamine-chondroitin mix. Wild will be incorporating OligoFlex into its food and beverage platforms for joint health, and it will distribute the ingredient in North and South America, Mexico, China and Japan. Other ingredients in Wild's joint health platforms include collagen, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine and chondroitin.