Algae beta-glucan ingredient demonstrates immune-health benefits in newly completed clinical study: SupplySide West report

November 19, 2018

At this year’s SupplySide West show, Kemin previewed data from a newly completed and not yet published study showing that BetaVia Complete, the whole-cell algae ingredient, achieved significant benefits in endurance-trained adults dealing with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection.

One year ago at the 2017 SupplySide West show, Kemin (Des Moines, IA) debuted its immune-health ingredients BetaVia Pure and BetaVia Complete. Both ingredients contain algae-based beta-glucans derived from the algae strain Euglena gracilis. One year later, at this year’s SupplySide West show, Kemin previewed data from a newly completed and not yet published study showing that BetaVia Complete, the whole-cell algae ingredient, achieved significant benefits in endurance-trained adults dealing with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection.

BetaVia Complete is a whole-algae fermentate comprising more than 50% algae-sourced beta-glucans, plus 20% protein and essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. BetaVia Pure is a concentrated ingredient containing more than 95% algae beta-glucans.

The new 90-day study on BetaVia Complete was conducted in endurance-trained athletes because endurance exercise is known to stress the body and compromise the immune system. “We saw some really nice findings in immune-health-support benefits,” said Emily Fritz, PhD, technical services manager, active wellness, human nutrition and health worldwide, Kemin. “We looked at symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in healthy, endurance-trained athletes, and we saw a reduction in reported sick days and a reduction in symptoms, symptom severity, number of episodes of those reported symptoms that occurred, and also a reduction in the number of symptom days (the days that they reported symptoms over the course of the 90-day study).” The company is now sharing specific details of the new study with key customers, she said.

Company representatives also discussed what sets algae beta-glucan apart from other sources of beta-glucan in the immune-health market. (The company says there is one other algae-based beta-glucan ingredient in the market.) Fritz said the company is keen on helping the market understand the differences between beta-glucan sources and how algae beta-glucans offer advantages.

“Beta-glucan has been around for a very long time,” Fritz said. “We’ve determined some confusion in the marketplace about the health benefits of oat beta-glucan, yeast beta-glucan, and beta-glucan from mushrooms. When you look at those other sources of beta-glucan, beta-glucan is a structural component in the cell wall of each of those sources, so you have to do additional processing, usually through enzymatic digestion, to free that beta-glucan from other components on the cell wall.”

By contrast, she said, Euglena gracilis algae, from which BetaVia ingredients are derived, store energy as paramylon. The paramylon “is just pure 1,3-beta-glucan,” she said, “and those paramylon granules float freely within the cell. They’re little granules of pure beta-glucan.”

Because the algae’s beta-glucans are free floating, “you’re able to accumulate a lot of it in the Euglena cell.” How much exactly? “If you look at oat or yeast, beta-glucans are just a small portion of the cell. If you’re looking at the total cell, they're only a maximum of 3%-10% of the dry weight of that cell,” she explained. “But if you look at Euglena, over 50% of that dry weight is beta-glucans.”

In addition, she said, for an ingredient like BetaVia Complete-the whole-algae beta-glucan-“the Euglena doesn’t have a cell wall; it just has a cell membrane that breaks easily. So what we’re able to do is mechanically isolate all of those paramylon granules through centrifugation or filter press. We break that cell, and then we can actually accumulate a really high-purity beta-glucan.”

Why should this matter to manufacturers? Because it increases efficiency and lowers cost, she said. “Because you’re able to get such a high purity, the dose is going to be lower, and because Euglena is so efficient at storing the beta-glucan, the ingredient really ends up being a reasonable price because we’re able to extract that beta-glucan to a high purity without a lot of additional manufacturing steps like enzymatic digestion."

Kemin shares a joint partnership agreement for BetaVia with microalgae specialist Valensa International (Eustis, FL). Fritz said Kemin sees significant opportunities ahead for both the immune-health market and for the BetaVia brand specifically. Of BetaVia Complete, she said, “The cool part about it is that it’s whole-food. It’s a clean, nutrient-rich superfood ingredient, which is ideal for people who want to know what they’re putting in their bodies.”

The company still has work to do to educate the market on this beta-glucan source. “Although consumers are very educated, sometimes they don’t have the newest and most current information, so there’s some confusion that we’re hoping to clarify by having a unique source of beta-glucan,” she said. “We want to educate consumers on the benefits of beta-glucan and why ours is different.”