Two M.D.-trained CEOs are taking their companies to the front line in promoting value of nutraceuticals
STEVENSON, Wash. and MOUNT KISCO, N.Y.—Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are right at the top of people’s lists of “diseases we want a cure for now!” and so it is only fitting that the beginning of November saw two intriguing announcements on the nutraceutical front, with Washington-based Total Nutraceutical Solutions (TNS) talking about mushroom-based relief for Alzheimer’s and New York-based Essence of Life touting a “curry spice” for its potential to kill cancer cells.
Also worth noting is that the CEO of TNS, Dr. Marvin S. Hausman, and the CEO of Essence of Life, Dr. Vijaya Nair, both have M.D. among the other letters following their names, so neither comes from an uniformed—nor unscientific—background.
In the case of TNS, the Nov. 1 announcement wasn’t just about the mushrooms but of an agreement between it and San Clemente, Calif.-based Model Biosystems Inc. under which TNS will evaluate several proprietary mushroom compounds for activity in controlling the development of Alzheimer’s, using a special Alzheimer’s model animal from Model Biosystems—in the form of a mutant Drosophila melanogaster fly—in a double-blinded investigator protocol study that will involve more than 1,000 Drosophila with 120 organisms in each test group.
Model Biosystems (MBS) had approached TNS with information about a recent experiment that showed that certain proprietary mushrooms from TNS had shown unusual anti-inflammatory activity, and offered the opinion that TNS should evaluate these mushroom samples using MBS’s special biologic model for Alzheimer’s.
“The discovery and development of organic whole foods that positively impact or help prevent diseases are welcome breakthroughs in healthcare, as more and more people demand natural alternatives to prevent disease,” Hausman says. “We believe that the unique, proprietary technology developed by TNS, and used in the production of our natural organic specialty mushrooms, contributes significantly to the potential success of this new Alzheimer’s disease study to be undertaken by TNS and MBS.”
Hausman says that his interest in whole-food nutraceuticals like the mushrooms derives from increasing evidence that simply providing a single compound from a natural source, such as a vitamin alone, doesn’t necessarily translate into the body actually using that compound or bionutrient. He cites TNS-related research indicating, for example, that Vitamin D2, in an oxidative stress model, only showed biologic activity as part of a whole biologic food, such as the mushroom Agaricus blazei. He says these findings support the concept that a whole biologic organism or food, with its supportive enzymes structures, is needed for bioavailability of valuable bionutrients in fighting disease.
In the case of Essence of Life, that company has been at the forefront of the movement to promote the health benefits of curcumin, one of the components of the popular Indian spice turmeric, and it noted in a Nov. 4 announcement that a study published in October in the British Journal of Cancer indicated that curcumin can help kill esophageal cancer cells in patients. That study followed another recent study at Ohio State University, published in June in BMC Cancer, that curcumin has efficacy in treating colorectal cancer.
Essence of Life is developing products based not just on curcumin, but also on fermented soy and other herbal spices including bioperine, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.
Essence of Life’s Nair says that many researchers dealing with curcumin believe not only that it can inhibit the growth and metastasis of tumors in certain types of cancers, but also that it might have efficacy in treating many other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type II diabetes, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and arthritis.
“I have seen research that suggests the vast majority of all diseases ultimately have some inflammatory component at their core,” Nair says. “By combining the power of curcumin and fermented soy, we can help prevent and reverse inflammation and its associated health risks.”
The British Journal of Cancer article, “Curcumin induces apoptosis-independent death in oesophageal cancer cells,” concluded that curcumin “can induce cell death by a mechanism that is not reliant on apoptosis induction, and thus represents a promising anticancer agent for prevention and treatment of oesophageal cancer.”
The BMS Cancer article, “New structural analogues of curcumin exhibit potent growth suppressive activity in human colorectal carcinoma cells,” concluded that “three curcumin analogues studied exhibit more potent inhibitory activity than curcumin in human colorectal cancer cells. Thus, they may have translational potential as chemopreventive or therapeutic agents for colorectal carcinoma.”
“But there has been a stigma sometimes with patients, telling them not to take natural compounds like ours,” Nair says. “Some of that pressure is from the pharmaceutical companies, and I understand that often, particularly in studies, they want to have totally clean data related to their pharmaceutical and chemotherapeutic compounds, so they don’t want people taking other agents while using theirs.”
But, she notes, nutraceuticals derive from foods in many cases, patients do end up suffering nutritional problems as a result of things like chemotherapy and, to her, telling them to avoid nutraceuticals is like telling them to avoid eating.
“We have found that natural products like ours often work quite well in conjunction with things like chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” Nair says. “What we are promoting is integrative medicine, not replacing medicine with nutraceutical compounds.”