Green tea extract specialist defends 1m+ ORAC measures

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oxygen radical absorbance capacity

South African herbal extracts specialist Green Cell Technologies (GCT) has defended the antioxidant measures that showed its green and rooibos tea extracts could deliver ORAC values of around 1,700,000 per 100g.

The company said the measure using its patented cell disruption technology method was the highest in the world and had been attained at the Cape Peninsular University of Technology in Capetown in assays that have been seen by NutraIngredients.

In an article here​ on Wednesday, Dr Jörg Grünwald, president of the German contract research organisation and natural products consultancy, analyze&realize, said the results should be verified at another lab, as they seemed very high.

Responding GCT said it was willing to send, “a sample of GCT's Rooibos extract to any establishment they choose for verification.”

ORAC or not ORAC?

Dr Grünwald said Massachusetts-based Brunswick Laboratories is the only lab in the world that was qualified to accurately measure ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) at that concentration.

Levels aside, Dr Grünwald questioned the dietary need for antioxidants at such levels, noting a lack of data, and the fact that ORAC measures are, “only one of several in vitro methods and does not show the situation in humans.”

“Human clinical trials are needed as the European Food Safety Authority accepts only those as proof of evidence,”​ he reflected.

“The pure run after the highest ORAC value may help to sell some product – mainly in the US – but does not prove the real situation in man.”

“Clinically significant”

GCT CEO Roy Henderson said the absence of such clinical data didn’t detract from the spectacular ORAC numbers.

“Green Cell Technologies process is merely more efficient than others and as a result more bio-actives are patently available for the consumer, the clinical evidence of this is relevant,”​ Henderson said.

“The clinical evidence that the plant cell destabalising process has benefit to the consumer comes in the form of the Assays … now a stabilised product can be produced which is consistently at a clinically significant level of Aspalatin in every batch.”

He also pointed to studies that showed the dietary need for antioxidants.

ORAC limitations

Brunswick Labs got in touch and said companies should be wary about how they used ORAC values in the marketplace.

“It is misleading to present ORAC values for extracts using 100 gram samples. Extracts are typically used for human consumption in doses of between 100mg and 1g,”​ said external relations manager, David N. Bell.

“Most suppliers of high-performance botanical extracts express their ORAC results per gram. Doing so in this case would result in an ORAC value of 17,000 per gram, which is in line with other high-ORAC extracts.”

Bell added: “ORAC is a starting spot for antioxidant investigation, not an end point. Like any chemical in vitro assay - such as those used to quantify items on nutrition or supplement facts panels - ORAC is not meant to describe in vivo outcomes. That is the domain of clinical investigation. We urge companies to use the ORAC method responsibly and with a recognition of its limitations.”

 The GCT extraction technology involves a, “mechanical intervention that forms part of the process destabilises the plant cell structures and releases all of the actives and not just part of them, as is common in other extraction methods. Because of the high number of extracted actives, we are able to achieve the high H-ORACs in these products.”

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1 comment

Suicide Marketing

Posted by James Neal-Kababick,

As a scientist, I can speak with other scientists about such measurements as ORAC, Total Polyphenolics, Porter Value and the measurement of countless markers, etc. that are used in the industry.
However, what often happens is that these scientific tools and data are taken out of context by over enthusiastic marketing teams who then create a nightmare of hype and misleading interpretations of what these measurements mean. Antioxidant has become a nightmare word to most scientists that now groan when they hear “ORAC” or “radical scavenging” claims and USDA is trying to distance itself as quickly as possible from that term.
The “my ORAC’s bigger than yours” arguments remind me of the terrible misappropriation of the Porter Value method back in the 1990’s that was being utilized for grape seed extract (much to the horror of the innovator Porter himself who never intended this application for comparing competitive products). While this measurement has value in comparing harvests from the same fields and same genetic stock made in the same way, it does not have any value in comparing brand A to brand B because the measurement does not take into account the variation in the polymer configuration between processes and sources. Yet, the marketing mania started with “My Porter value is bigger than yours so my grape seed extract is better than yours.” Despite attempts to clarify these issues, they fell on deaf ears and the industry ended up tripping over their own claims. During the heyday of St. John’s Wort, I witnessed an almost zombie like mentality about having 0.3% dianthrones. A supplier could offer 0.15% dianthrone material at half the price and the company could use twice as much by removing some matlodextrin from the capsule fill and it would be the same delivered value of total dianthrones but companies had to have that “0.3%” value because they marketed it to the point where consumers only wanted that and were convinced that anything that didn’t say 0.3% didn’t work. Hence the term I coined “Market Compounds” which is widely appreciated by those dealing with this problem in the trenches daily.
While I have a great appreciation for the need and talent of strategic marketing and the urgency to move product into distribution to ride the tide of opportunity, I have repeatedly watched the industry shoot itself in the foot with the “marker of the year” and the same things go on again and again. If you really want a high ORAC value, just add a little industrial grade Antioxidant 33 (which I find in products from China) and the ORAC’s will go through the roof. I applaud and appreciate the position of David Bell to utilize the ORAC value with a scientific understanding of its limitations and as a starting point for research. I would love to see science in our industry utilized with a scientific understanding of its limitations. Sadly, it seems that only the scientists themselves speak that language. Maybe I should not complain since prior to the cGMP enforcement by FDA, many companies only conducted testing for generating marketing fodder and because their competitors did so and they had to keep up.
The industry has come a long way and accomplished an incredible amount of growth both in size and maturity over the last few decades. More and more, I see collaborative efforts and the coming together of stakeholders to raise the bar of quality and integrity in the industry. It is a real joy to sit down to a table with stakeholders who all bring part of the puzzle to bear on the problem rather than hiding behind “proprietary methods.” Sadly, that great work is often tarnished by “marker in mouth disease” that ends up backfiring on the industry and giving us a big black eye in the public arena. We are often our own worst enemies when it comes to negative media. If we were more focused on a full characterization of St. John’s Wort and profiling of the various materials used in research so that we could better understand what worked and what did not, perhaps that botanical would still be the blockbuster it was in 1997. Perhaps consumers were turned off because like some of the products I tested, they were taking alfalfa extract from India which will spec out at 0.3% dianthrones if you don’t know to remove chlorophyll before doing the test which was something many labs skipped when running extracts. Sure it said “0.3%” but it did not work and consumers then said “that stuff doesn’t work for me” and the market crashes. I sat in the newly formed NIH-ODS pleading for them to store retains in an ultra-low so that after the study it could be more fully characterized and we could understand the not so positive results of the study with a better perspective. The response was “We have a C of A and they are all standardized to the ACTIVE INGREDIENT at 0.3%.” I threw up in my mouth and had to watch a disaster unfold that was totally preventable.
Until the industry properly follows the steps of product development in the proper order, we will continue to suffer the consequences of perverted market driven science. The order should be investigative research & characterization, clinical studies, product specification development and supply chain management, marketing and sales with reinvestment into ongoing R&D to fine tune specs as needed. What I normally see is marketing and sales, borrowed science, adulteration crises, quality control, damage control, product death. Of course, as a research scientist it is easy for me to pontificate how thing should be done from the scientific standpoint. This will not be a workable model until the majority of companies agree to utilize this model or until FDA and regulatory bodies mandate this model.
James Neal-Kababick
Flora Research Laboratories
Fellow AOAC International
Adjunct Faculty Bastyr University
Botanical Medicine Department

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