Synthetic micronutrient the ‘first’ to receive EU Novel Food approval

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Foods found to contain ergothioneine include liver, kidney, black beans, kidney bean and oat bran, with the highest levels in oyster mushrooms. ©iStock
Foods found to contain ergothioneine include liver, kidney, black beans, kidney bean and oat bran, with the highest levels in oyster mushrooms. ©iStock
A synthetic micronutrient that may prevent oxidative stress has become the first to receive Novel Food approval for the general population.

Designed and developed by French ingredients firm Tetrahedron, Ergoneine is the brand name for its manufactured version of L-ergothioneine, a naturally occurring amino acid that humans acquire exclusively through the diet.

In becoming the first company in Europe to receive such authorisation, Tetrahedron intend to supply L-ergothioneine for incorporation into nutritional products for European consumers.

Mentioned products that L-ergothioneine could be used within include non-alcoholic beverages, fresh milk products, milk-based drinks, cereal bars and chocolate confectionery.

“We are very excited to bring this new source of L-ergothioneine to the market,”​ said Dr Jean-Claude Yadan, president of Tetrahedron.

“Over 100 years of research has shown the potential health benefits of L-ergothioneine. Until now, that potential has gone unrealised due to the unavailability of L-ergothioneine at a cost and quality that make it fully marketable.

“Our new Ergoneine ingredient, now authorised as ‘Novel Food’, will fulfil the unmet need for this unique antioxidant L-ergothioneine in human health nutrition.”

Maximum doses

Details published by the European Commission’s official journal allow a maximum level of L-ergothioneine for the general population of 30 milligrams per day (mg/day) excluding pregnant and lactating women.

In children older than 3 years, the maximum level is set at 20 mg/day. Further instructions require the labelling of the foodstuffs containing Ergoneine to state ‘L-ergothioneine.’

The EC’s approval joins a similar move back in January 2015, where Tetrahedron also gained GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) designation for this micronutrient in the US.

Since then, American ingredient suppliers such as Blue California have gone on to develop L-ergothioneine for use in dietary supplements, food, beverage and cosmetic products.

L-ergothioneine research

The science of L-ergothioneine has been fast developing over the last 10 years or so with L-ergothioneine playing a protective role in pro-inflammatory conditions that lead to oxidative damage.

Micronutrient deficiencies are also been linked to immune dysfunction, cognitive decline, skin photo-ageing and vision deterioration of which oxidative stress plays a major role.

Oxidative stress in combination with micronutrient deficiency appear to result in the loss of functional and structural integrity of cells.

Indeed, these observations are backed up by a review​ that concluded ergothioneine showed “numerous antioxidant and cytoprotective effects in vitro and a few in vivo, including free radical scavenger activity, radioprotective properties, anti-inflammatory actions and protection against UV radiation, or neuronal injury.”

However, the review mentions the molecular mechanisms underlying these cytoprotective actions remained largely undetermined.​ 

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