Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where Supplement Ingredients Go to Play When We're Not Looking

By James J. Gormley

OK, so we all know about the gut-friendly benefits of beneficial bacteria, those good “bugs” which wage a neverending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way! Sorry, that was George Reeves as TV’s Superman in the 1950s, but you get the picture.

Consumers get them in yogurt and in high-potency probiotic supplements with billions and billions of colony forming units (CFUs).

Interestingly enough, there are other applications for friendly bacteria, including products that help plants grow better with less reliance on fertilizers and pesticides. One product with soil probiotics (Trident Products’ Growtastic) is said to stimulate root and plant growth, increase the bad-bug-killing benefits of pesticides and help defend plants from disease. Other products (e.g., Green Earth Agriculture’s Quantum Growth, John & Bob’s Grow Green, and Custom Biologicals’ Biota Max) are combined with other inputs, such as nutrient-rich organic matter and beneficial fungi.

Ever wonder if there are eco-friendly approaches to tackling wastewater, sewage and environmental bio-remediation? Probiotics to the rescue again, as Kansas City, MO-based SCD Probiotics has a range of industrial solutions using good bacteria. This company also offers probiotics for aquaculture.

If we are surprised at these industrial uses for supplement ingredients, we shouldn’t be, especially if we consider the wide range of uses for plants and botanicals in food products and non-food products.

Example: corn starch. Although we may know it as a processing aid in tableting or as a thickening agent in gravies, corn starch was originally only used industrially for starching laundry and for adhesives and coatings.

Natural preservatives for foods and supplements are another example of non-nutritional uses of nutrients: antioxidant vitamins and BI Nutraceuticals’ RoseOx® are very well known to food technologists.

Algal-based products and technologies have also stimulated a great deal of industrial interest, witness the 2009 overture of BP to Martek/DSM for the development of algae-based fuels.

So it's not surprising that plant-based ingredients are also used in cleaning products. Wonder why that all-purpose cleaner is so versatile? Look no further than the plant-derived alkyl polyglucoside in the ingredients list. Why does the cleaner lather so well even though I use hard water? Citric acid and lactic acid from corn reduce minerals to soften hard water and increase cleaning power. We already know about enzymes fighting blood and other stubborn stains, but did we know plant-based lauramine oxide and sodium lauryl sulfate help remove dirt to give us sparkling dishes?

Don’t even get me started on plant-based nano-materials: can you say nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) from Alberta, Canada 10 times fast?
All in all, I think it’s fascinating (and cool) that there are so many known, not well known, and emerging applications for plant- and organism-based ingredients. Provided the beneficial exploitation of these opportunities doesn’t imbalance agriculture by siphoning off production that could be used for better purposes, such as feeding the world, we have a fascinating road ahead.
Courtesy of the SupplySide Community
The Gormley Files - Blogged