Sugarcane fix: Revolutionary remote trial to explore health benefits of polyphenols in plant extract

By Audrey Yow

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers at Deakin University Australia are planning a fully remote trial to investigate the health beneficial properties of polyphenols in sugarcane extract and their potential to improve gut, heart and mental health. © Getty Images
Researchers at Deakin University Australia are planning a fully remote trial to investigate the health beneficial properties of polyphenols in sugarcane extract and their potential to improve gut, heart and mental health. © Getty Images

Related tags Sugarcane Australia Polyphenols Supplements Research and development Gut bacteria mental health

Researchers at Deakin University Australia are planning a fully remote trial to investigate the health beneficial properties of polyphenols in sugarcane extract and their potential to improve gut, heart and mental health.

Research has demonstrated the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols, which are naturally found in highly coloured fruits and vegetables as well as tea, coffee and dark chocolate.

High levels of polyphenols are found in sugarcane extract too.

Dr Matthew Flavel, Chief Scientist at Human Health and Wellbeing, explained that a patented extraction process increases the bioavailability and concentration of polyphenols from sugarcane. It is selective in extracting compounds that match the chemical structures that are targeted, so compounds that do not match these structures will be removed.

“'The extract is a natural by-product from sugarcane, with less than 5% sugar remaining in the product after the patented extraction process,” ​said Dr Dan Dias, Senior Lecturer at Deakin University.

'We think there may be broader benefits of including the unique polyphenols found in sugarcane into the human diet. This upcoming trial will be an important step forward that evaluates these potential benefits with a world-class scientific study.”

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Pioneering a fully remote study trial

In this first-ever remote study for a supplement ingredient, the researchers will recruit  healthy males and females between 18 to 55 years old in Australia.

The objective is to promote understanding of PRSE supplementation and how it can contribute to gut, heart and mental health.

It will be a six-month double-blinded randomised controlled crossover trial. The entire trial will be completed in the participants’ own setting, such as at home or at work.

Participants will receive either the control sample (placebo) or the polyphenol-enriched sugarcane extract (PRSE) sample over three months. In the subsequent three months, there will be a reversal of conditions (switching from the placebo to the PRSE capsule and vice versa).

Each capsule will contain 250 mg of PRSE. Maltodextrin will be used as the placebo, which will look identical to the PRSE capsule.

Participants are to consume two capsules daily, one in the morning and one at night at approximately the same time each day. They may be consumed with or without food and on an empty stomach.

At the end of the trial, researchers will identify and determine the influence of beneficial bacteria in response to a three-month treatment. These factors will be studied:

Reduction of inflammation and assessment of key blood biomarkers; impact on gut bacteria; influence on general mood and wellbeing.

“We expect this study to validate the findings observed in previously published in vitro studies on the anti-inflammatory properties of PRSE, and that the results will be reproducible in humans with improvements in blood biomarkers, gut microbiota and general mood and wellbeing,”​ said Dr Dias.

Implications and opportunities

The researchers hope to improve participation rates for future research by exploring the plausibility of fully remote study trials.

“We hope this study points a way forward for clinical trials, so they are no longer just for people living in cities. We believe this approach will drive the future of health and wellbeing,” ​said Dr Dias.

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of data collected from remote participants, the researchers will put some measures in place.

Participants will receive step-by-step illustrative instructions on how to prepare blood and faecal samples.

Regular communication will take place during the study, with Project Manager Simone Lewin overseeing data handling before the information is disseminated to the rest of the team.

The laboratories that will conduct blood and faecal analyses will adhere to strict quality assurance procedures. Any samples that do not meet the criteria will be rejected and new kits will be provided to the participants for them to re-submit new ones.

“This trial is an exciting opportunity for participants to investigate the benefits they may observe personally, and from the privacy of their own home,” ​said Dr Flavel, who also pointed out another positive implication from this study.

Sugarcane is the world's largest crop in terms of production. Obtaining beneficial active ingredients from the plant at such a big scale can deliver a genuine impact on global health and wellbeing.

“By extracting these valuable active ingredients from parts of the plant that would otherwise be ignored, we are ensuring the sustainability of the world's largest crop.

“Our group has published more than 25 peer-reviewed publications reporting the composition, efficacy and safety of active ingredients extracted from sugarcane. The intention is to offer brands our unique sugarcane ingredients to incorporate into their formulations and products,” ​said Dr Flavel.

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