By Kat Schuett
Numerous studies have shown that proanthocyanidins (PACs), a phytochemical found in cranberries, prevent maladies ranging from urinary tract infections (UTIs) to stomach ulcers and even periodontal disease.
But not all cranberry supplements pack equally potent amount of PAC power. This lack of standardization over time could eat away at consumer confidence in cranberry's efficacy. Fruit d'Or launches CranNaturelle and calls for standards.
To ensure the quality, safety and potency, Fruit d'Or, the world's largest supplier of organic cranberry products-including a new line of ground breaking ingredients launched at Expo West in March-has stepped forward with support from the nation's top scientific researchers from Rutgers University and the Cranberry Institute to call for an industry-wide quality assurance program.
Raising the Bar
The lack of standardization in the cranberry supplement industry was recently brought to light in October of 2012, when a controversial study published in The Cochrane Library analyzed over 24 studies on cranberry and UTI prevention and concluded there was little, if any, benefit.
This study was a double edged sword, according to Amy Howell, Ph.D., research scientist at Rutgers University who was on the team that identified PACs as the active ingredient in cranberries. "It compares apples to oranges. Some of the studies used juice, while others used supplements, most of which were not even tested to ensure PAC bioactivity," she says.Due to the variance in levels of PACs in cranberry products, some of the studies reviewed by Cochrane showed positive results, while some showed no benefits at all.
"The good thing is that this study brought attention to the need for standardization. Right now, it's the Wild West out there, not only with cranberries but many functional supplements. Many companies are putting out products without even testing for potency," Howell comments. "Cranberry PACs prevent bacterial adhesion to bladder cells, but bioavailability can be destroyed by a variety of factors from high pressure or high temperature processing to improper storage."
After hearing about the Cochrane study, Stephen Lukawski from Fruit d'Or decided to put the company's new line of cranberry ingredients-as well as 15 other natural cranberry supplements selling in the North America-to the test. The results from an independent accredited lab confirmed that the amount of active PACs in the 15 products bought off the shelf varied greatly-ranging from less than 1 percent to 8 percent. Fruit d'Or's new products tested much higher, with 15 to 20 percent PACs.
Currently, however, there is no way for consumers to know which products contain active PACs. Working with Howell, Fruit d'Or is now spearheading efforts to create a solution. The proposed quality assurance program would ensure that each lot is tested annually for PAC levels. Howell suggests that all supplements should deliver at least 36 milligrams of bioactive PACs per day, the equivalent to 10-ounces of cranberry cocktail. Lukawski also wants to see all products tested for heavy metals and prohibited pesticides. Ultimately, he would like to develop a "seal of approval" that would let consumers know that the product has met certain requirements.
"It's time to raise the bar. We are inviting industry members, particularly the quality control teams of retail manufacturers, to work together with the Cranberry Institute to create a quality standard that ensures safety, quality and efficacy," states Lukawski. To get involved, send an email to Stephen@fruit-dor.ca
New High potency Functional Cranberry products
To ensure high PAC potency, Fruit d'Or's new organic ingredient line, CranNaturelle, employs a proprietary low temperature drying process.
The line includes a patented protein powder made from cranberry seed, which packs in 25 grams of protein per serving and is the first fruit-based option to offer a full amino acid profile, or "complete protein."
The CranNaturelle line also offers a whole cranberry powder, which provides four times more antioxidants than cranberry juice and includes the skin for added fiber. Fruit d'Or uses a minimum of 55 pounds of fresh cranberry to produce one pound of nutraceutical powder, the highest ratio in the industry according to Lukawski. The line includes a functional tea powder, with a larger particle size. This medicinal tea will make its first appearance in the marketplace this summer in TwinLab's organic Altiva line.
Lastly, the new CranNaturelle cranberry oil is made from a patent-pending process that delivers a balance of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, plus tocotrienols. Used primarily in personal care, cranberry oilis now also being explored as a supplement to improve heart health, says Lukawski.
In addition to these ingredients, Fruit d'Or also worked with Tab-Lab to create an all-natural chewing gum that uses a combination of cranberry powder and probiotics to improve oral health. This patented tri-layer gum is available for private label and will be debuted at Supply Side in New York. Fruit d'Or willsoon be working with Laval University in Montreal to conduct clinical trials on this product.
"Studies show that 4 out of 10 people worldwide cannot swallow pills," points out Lukawski. "Our goal is to innovate new delivery systems that provide increased bioavailability and absorption."
Through innovation and standardization, Fruit d'Or is pushing the entire cranberry category to higher levels to meet consumer and manufacturer needs and expectations.