SupplySide West 2018 krill research update

December 10, 2018

Aker BioMarine provides updates on its research efforts in the areas of sports nutrition and lupus. 

Aker BioMarine (Oslo, Norway), a leading krill oil manufacturer, has been making a big push in studying the efficacy of its product in a number of areas, namely sports nutrition and management of lupus. “We’re investing significantly in science,” said Matts Johansen, CEO of Aker, at November’s SupplySide West show. “I think the omega-3 industry has had an easy life because there has been so much science that’s being done by hospitals and universities, [b]ut for us in the phospholipid space, which is fairly new, we have to do everything. So, I think we are the omega-3 company in the world investing most into R&D to really drive this knowledge and data.”

At March’s Natural Products Expo West 2018 show, Aker debuted results to a pilot study examining the effects of its Superba Boost krill oil on triathletes and announced the company would be further studying the ingredient on triathletes competing in the Norseman, a grueling triathlon competition. In the Norseman, “[triathletes] swim a fiord, bicycle over a mountain, and then do a marathon up hill,” explained Johansen. Specifically, the swim is 3.8 km in 13 degree Celsius water; the bicycle leg is 180 km; and the run is 42.2 km, the last 17.2 of which is at a steep uphill incline. The total race is 140.4 miles. The 2018 Norseman took place on August 3 and Aker’s data is beginning to be analyzed. Some of the results, Johansen shared with us, were very positive.

The main parameters measured were performance and post-competition recovery. Performance was measured using bicycles. “We measure on the bicycle leg because in swimming and running there is a lot of technique, but in bicycling it’s all about power,” explained Johansen. “What we saw is that the group that had high omega-3 index levels was bicycling, on average, 48 minutes faster than those that didn’t.”

“Then we look at recovery after the competition because it’s pretty tough for the body, and you’re in a vulnerable state and many people get sick after a competition,” Johansen continued. “We measured the sickness rate so we can see what the pattern of disease was after the competition. There was a 30% lower sickness rate in the high omega-3 index group compared to the others, and they also came back much faster into intensive training.”

Another study whose results are highly anticipated is from scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) called “Ranger Resilience and Improved Performance on Phospholipid Bound Omega-3s” (RRIPP-3), which is being sponsored by Aker BioMarine. This comprehensive clinical study sets out to investigate if krill oil omega-3s can improve resilience and cognition of some of the toughest U.S. military recruits under extreme stress. Five years in the making, the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 250 Army Rangers, an elite airborne, light infantry combat formation within the United States Army Special Operations Command. Considering the physical and psychological strain of warfare, this study seeks to measure the resilience of soldiers following supplementation with krill.

“50% of the army rangers drop out of the program because they can’t cope with it,” explained Johansen. “The primary endpoint [we hope for] is that the krill group will have lower dropout rates and that they will be able to handle the pressure, physical and psychological pressure, in a better way. The secondary parameters are the performance parameters you can only measure in the military-anything from cognitive tests to physical tests and sleep patterns. That’s going to be some really interesting science.”

According to Johansen, the study was just completed, will be unblinded in about two months and published results can be expected in Q2 of 2019. While both this study and the Norseman study are measuring the very extremes of our human physiology, they can translate to benefits from everyday stressors, whether that be working out or workplace burnout, and allow Aker to target a younger demographic.

“Performing at high levels, even if it’s just working hard or studying hard or training hard, it tears on the body and creates inflammation and you need the phospholipid omega-3 to reduce that inflammation,” said Johansen. “That’s why we think phospholipid omega-3s are especially important for young people. There has been a lot of focus on the cardiovascular side, but these health effects are important for general health of young people.”

The lupus research announced recently has just started, but hopes to validate clinically what doctors have already been doing. “We did a study four or five years ago where we had, by coincidence, two patients with lupus that were in the study. We didn’t study lupus, but cardiovascular health, which is byproduct of lupus,” explained Johansen. “We had two separate occasions of doctors reporting back that their lupus patients said they were generally feeling much better with their lupus conditions.”

At the same time, said Johansen, the Lupus Research Alliance has been investing in research and tracking down potential treatments. “They’ve invested something like $60 million to do research and find solutions, but they weren’t getting anywhere,” he continued. “They started a program four or five years ago that approached the doctors treating lupus patients in the U.S. and asked them what they do, what type of existing medicines help their patients. So, they collect that data, look at the science behind it, and instead of starting from scratch, they can start with existing drugs. Out of that came a top-five list, and krill oil was on that list.”

As a result, Aker and the Lupus Research Alliance came together, and this study was born. “When you have lupus, your immune system attacks tissue and organs, even when there is no problem, creating inflammation. And that’s what causes the pain and other problems for lupus patients,” Johansen explained. “We cannot stop the immune system from attacking tissue, but we can reduce the effects of it by giving them krill oil. When we get the results of the study we will evaluate if we should launch a product specifically targeted to lupus patients.”