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Predictions for Natural Products to Watch in 2014

While marketing is a major factor in increasing consumer awareness of specific natural products, another key factor is new science. It is usually not just a single study that raises public awareness. Instead, it is a tipping point reached by cumulative studies that creates a buzz that leads to increased sales. Often this buzz is also the result of various medical experts on TV, the internet and other media trying to present the latest and greatest medicine from nature. Well, here are three very strong candidates that retailers need to be aware of: PQQ, carnosine and celery seed extract.

PQQ

Let’s start with something new. PQQ is a vitamin-like cofactor that was shown to be essential in mammalian nutrition in 1994. It exerts a synergistic effect with CoQ10 and it is vital for the function of mitochondria (the energy producing compartments of our cells). Like CoQ10, PQQ protects brain cells from damage. It has been shown to be memory restorative in animal and human studies and its antioxidant activity is completely off the charts (about 5,000 times the effect of vitamin C).1

While PQQ has a long list of potential applications, it appears particularly useful in counteracting the decline in mitochondrial function in the brain associated with aging as well as in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The potential benefit in these disorders was demonstrated in a human study2 that compared the effects of PQQ and CoQ10 alone (20 mg and 300 mg daily) or in combination by having subjects perform a Stroop test at the beginning of the study and after four and eight weeks of supplementation. In the Stroop test, subjects are asked to quickly identify the color of ink of written words. It doesn’t sound too tough, but it is because the words are actually non-matching colors. For example, the word “red” is printed in green ink. It is a standard test used to measure mental processing. In the study, after eight weeks of supplementation, PQQ produced a 4.2 second improvement, CoQ10 a 1.8 second improvement and the combined PQQ/CoQ10 a 6.3 second improvement.

Look for combination products containing PQQ and CoQ10 to become very popular in 2014.

Carnosine

Carnosine is a molecule composed of two amino acids, histidine and alanine, that is naturally found in “excitable” tissues, such as muscle and nerve tissue, and reaches high concentrations in skeletal muscle and the brain. It functions in these tissues in maintaining the proper pH and electrical charge. It also protects brain and muscle cells from oxidative damage. Carnosine possesses additional benefits including neutralizing toxic heavy metals, promotion of wound healing, and promotes healthy aging and cellular rejuvenation.

Carnosine levels in the body decline with age. By the time a person is 70 years old, carnosine levels have decreased in their body by 63 percent. Carnosine has been shown to rejuvenate connective tissue cells, which may explain its beneficial effects on wound healing, as well as its use in trying to fight off the effects of aging in the skin, causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity. Because of all of these effects and others, carnosine is becoming well known as a longevity and anti-aging nutrient.

Carnosine has also been shown to:3

• Improve muscle function and recovery from muscle fatigue;

• Protect against degeneration of the brain, as well as loss of cognitive function and memory associated with aging;

• Improve mental function and behavior in children with attention deficit disorder and autism; and

• Dramatically extend the life expectancy of laboratory animals and human cells in culture.

Several double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have looked at the use of carnosine in neurodegenerative patients. For example, one study examined the effect of 1.5 g of carnosine daily for 30 days in Parkinson’s patients.4 The addition of carnosine to the medical treatment regimen significantly improved neurological symptoms, with a 36 percent improvement in symptoms compared to a 16 percent improvement in the control group. Clinical signs of Parkinson’s disease, including decreased bodily movements and rigidity of extremities, were also significantly improved. This improvement in the “everyday activity” of Parkinson’s patients allows them more independence and better quality of life.

Carnosine may also be helpful in improving brain function in people with autism. In one double-blind trial in 31 children with autism, carnosine was shown to improve expressive and receptive vocabulary and subjective improvement on an autism rating scale over an eight-week trial at a dosage of 800 mg/day.5

Carnosine has been on the marketplace for years, but it is not nearly as popular as it should be based on the existing science. Hopefully, that changes in 2014.

Celery Seed Extract

Celery seed extract contains an important compound known as 3-n-butylphthalide (3nB), that is also responsible for the characteristic flavor and odor of celery. There is a growing excitement in the scientific literature for 3nB as a synthetic version is being developed as a drug in China for improving brain function and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. But, taking a synthetic version is not necessary as celery seed extracts are available on the market that contain as high as 85 percent 3nB. In addition, the natural form of 3nB is the L form and in the synthetic version it contains a mixture of D and L with the D form actually antagonizing some of the benefits. In other words, the natural is much better!

3nB was discovered as the active component of celery in response to investigations by researchers seeking to explain some of the medicinal effects of celery, including the lowering of blood pressure and the relief of arthritis. 3nB first drew significant scientific attention when researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center identified it as the factor in celery responsible for the blood pressure-lowering effect of celery.6 The research was prompted by one of the researcher’s father, who after eating a quarter-pound of celery every day for one week observed his blood pressure dropped from 158 over 96 to a normal reading of 118 over 82. Subsequent animal studies found that a very small amount of 3nB lowered blood pressure by 12 to 14 percent and also lowered cholesterol by about 7 percent.

A recent human study evaluated the efficacy of a standardized extract of celery seed supplying 85 percent 3nB in mild to moderate hypertensive patients.7 The dosage was 150 mg per day. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in both systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) compared to baseline measurements. The change at week six for the SBP was 8. 2 mmHg and for the DBP was 8.5 mmHG.

These results indicate that celery seed extract may produce the greatest blood pressure-lowering effects in natural products available on health food store shelves. Some of the effects noted in the preliminary studies with the synthetic version an ability to prevent stroke; improve blood flow to the brain; protect the brain and enhance energy production within the brain; and improve mild impairment of cognitive function. In animal models, 3nB has also been shown to increase longevity and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, 3nB treatment significantly improved learning deficits, as well as long-term spatial memory. 3nB treatment also significantly reduced total cerebral beta-amyloid plaque deposition that is the hallmark brain lesion of Alzheimer’s. The researchers concluded “3nB shows promising preclinical potential as a multitarget drug for the prevention and/or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”8

Perhaps the most popular use of celery seed extract is in gout as 3nB is not only able to significantly lower the production of uric acid, it also has some anti-inflammatory effects.

Final Comments

Will these products become big sellers in 2014? If everything falls in place, definitely so, but what will create that tipping point will likely be additional research. Big, sustainable hits in our industry are based upon solid evidence of safety and efficacy. I believe these three examples will have what it takes to be successful in the future. My hope is that future is right around the corner.

References:

1 Rucker R, Chowanadisai W, Nakano M. Potential physiological importance of pyrroloquinoline quinone. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Sep;14(3):268-77.

2 Nakano M, Ubukata K, Yamamoto T, Yamaguchi H. Effect of pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) on mental status of middle-aged and elderly persons. FOOD Style. 2009;21:13(7):50-3.

3 Boldyrev AA. Carnosine: new concept for the function of an old molecule. Biochemistry. 2012:77(4):313-26.

4 Boldyrev A, Fedorova T, Stepanova M, et al. Carnosine increases efficiency of DOPA therapy of Parkinson’s disease: a pilot study. Rejuvenation Research. 2008;11(4):821-7.

5 Chez M.G., Buchanan C.P., Aimonovitch M.C, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of L-carnosine supplementa.tion in children with autistic spectrum disorders. J Child Neurology. 2002;17:833-7.

6 Tsi D, Tan BKH: Cardiovascular pharmacology of 3-nbutylphthalide in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Phytotherapy Research.1997;11:576-82.

7 Madhavi D, Kagan D, Rao V, Murray M. A pilot study to evaluate the antihypertensive effect of a celery extract in mild to moderate hypertensive patients. Natural Medicine Journal. 2013;4(4):1-3.

8 Peng Y, Sun J, Hon S, Nylander AN, et al. L-3-nbutylphthalide improves cognitive impairment and reduces amyloid-beta in a transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease. J Neurosci. 2010 Jun 16;30(24):8180-9.

Michael T. Murray, ND, is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. He is a graduate, former faculty member and serves on the Board of Regents of Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. The author of more than 30 books on health nutrition, Murray is also director of product development and education for Natural Factors Nutritional Products. For more information, visit www.doctormurray.com.

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