Given the intense interest in cognitive health ingredients, Magtein – which is self-affirmed GRAS, soluble in water, odorless, tasteless and colorless - has already attracted a lot of interest in the dietary supplements and food sector following the publication of a high-profile animal study conducted by scientists at MIT in the journal Neuron last year.
This showed that Magtein – developed by Magceutics and distributed by AIDP on an exclusive basis - could increase learning ability, working memory, and short- and long-term memory in young and aged rats.
It also showed that common magnesium compounds do not effectively improve brain magnesium levels (Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium, Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, Zhao X, Govindarajan A, Zhao MG, Zhuo M, Tonegawa S, Liu G. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77).
Food firms interested but waiting for results of human trial
A human study, which has just started at the University of Southern California, is now looking at whether these results can be replicated in people, said an AIDP spokesman.
“The human clinical study is a double-blind, placebo controlled study with 40 individuals. Preliminary results will be available by mid-2012.”
He did not disclose the age or cognitive abilities of the volunteers are being studied, what biomarkers will be monitored and what cognitive tests will be performed, adding: “As this study is in the initial phases, the design details are confidential at this point.
“But we will be happy to share more when the study is completed.”
Supplements market: Magtein has exceeded customers’ initial forecasts
He added: “AIDP and Magceutics began the Magtein market development in 2010 for introduction in 2011.
“It has exceeded our customers’ initial forecasts. Two [supplement] companies have launched the product and several more are ready for market shortly.”
Some food manufacturers have “expressed interest”, he confirmed. However several were “waiting for the human study results” before considering using the ingredient in functional foods or beverages.
Based on the animal study, 1g twice a day with a meal is recommended, says the firm. However, the human study would provide greater insight into the appropriate dosage.
Blood brain barrier
According to AIDP, Magtein is able to pass through the blood brain barrier more effectively than other magnesium forms.
The rat study indicated a greater brain synapse density in subjects taking Magtein in sub regions of Hippocampus known to control memory, said the firm.
Magnesium supplement sales are rising sharply
According to data from SPINS, sales of vitamins and supplements with magnesium as a primary ingredient were up 19% to $11.87m in the natural retail channel (excluding Whole Foods Market) and up 24.6% to $18.61m in the conventional retail channel (excluding Walmart) in the 52 weeks to August 6.
To put this into context, total sales of vitamins and dietary supplements over the same period across both channels were up 7.5% to $3.2bn.
Magnesium and health claims
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued positive opinions on magnesium and the maintenance of normal bone, teeth, and protein synthesis; the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; electrolyte balance; normal energy-yielding metabolism; neurotransmission, and muscle contraction.
But it gave the thumbs down to claims about magnesium and blood glucose, blood pressure, stress relief, protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage, the immune system and fat metabolism.
Brain food: What can consumers trust?
Speaking at the Supply Side East show in May, Datamonitor product launch analytics director Tom Vierhile said cognitive function was the functional foods category where the gap between interest and buying behavior was the widest.
In other words, while consumers were increasingly worried about losing mental acuity, they did not know which products to buy, he said.
But should clearer data emerge about which ingredients to back, the market opportunity was huge, he argued: “The cognitive health area is where there is the biggest gap between interest and actual purchasing behavior.”
The US brain food category is nevertheless growing much faster than many other functional food categories, although with a retail value of less than $2bn in 2009 (compared with $3.3bn for bone and joint health $9.7bn for digestive and immunity health and $5.6bn for heart health), it remained relatively small, said Vierhile.
Datamonitor predicts that cognitive health foods will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8% between 2009 and 2014, rising from $1.198bn to $2.095bn.