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Nootropics for healthy cognitive function

People in many countries, including the U.S., are experiencing an increased life span.1 However, the aging population aims not just for increased, but optimized, years of life. Paramount to this are strategies to improve cognition or delay age-related cognitive decline. Supporting cognitive function is something that can, and should, be considered, even before the earliest signs of dementia are noticed.

Nootropic, a term coined in 1972 by Corneliu E. Giurgea, Ph.D, refers to a nontoxic substance that enhances learning and memory, facilitates communication between the brain hemispheres and enhances neurological resilience.2 Nootropics are commonly utilized to prevent or support early states of cognitive decline; they are also utilized by those who simply wish to optimize their cognitive function.

Cognitive function can be enhanced in a variety of ways. Studies show high levels of free radicals in the brains of those with cognitive decline.3 Antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier tend to support cognitive function and protect the brain from the expected effects of aging. Vasodilators increase blood perfusion to the brain, enhancing oxygen levels and aiding glucose utilization.4 Substances that support neurotransmitter levels, particularly acetylcholine (ACh), can treat dementia.5 Finally, substances that support neurogenesis and increased neurological plasticity via modulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) show great promise in enhancing cognitive function.6

Ginkgo bilboa (ginkgo) leaf is a well-known nootropic herb. Ginkgo trees belong to the Ginkgoaceae family, an ancient family cultivated for thousands of years for medicinal use in China. Much of the ginkgo used in research studies is a standardized product (EGb 761) of 22 to 27% flavonol glycosides, 5-7% terpene lactones, and less than 5 ppm ginkgolic acids. Ginkgo increases circulation to the brain, supporting glucose levels and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) utilization, and decreasing free-radical damage. Nootropic effects may also be due to increased levels of BDNF.6 Ginkgo is most effective when used for at least six weeks; long-term dosing is safe if the patient doesn’t have a clotting disorder or using anticoagulants (ginkgo thins the blood and should also be discontinued prior to surgery). Adulteration/contamination of ginkgo can be a concern,7 so analysis should be done on ginkgo sources to ensure a high-quality product.

Bacopa monnieri (water hyssop) is an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used as a medhya rasayana (memory/intellectual enhancer). Water hyssop grows in swampy or marshy areas; the arial portion of the plant is used, making it a very sustainable product. Sometimes referred to as brahmi, water hyssop is often contaminated with Centella asiatica.8 Water hyssop is a potent antioxidant that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Administration is protective against toxic exposure, including tobacco and common environmental contaminants with neurotoxic side effects.9,10 Water hyssop also increases cerebral blood flow and supports ACh levels.9 Additionally, early research seems to indicate enhancement of BDNF.6 Multiple studies have shown water hyssop improves memory acquisition and retention, as well as attention and memory processing. Results are most pronounced after three months of administration; short-term memory improvements are not seen in research studies, although many patients feel subjectively better even with short-term administration.

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Product formulation with plant-based proteins

The increasing popularity of, and consumer demand for, plant-based foods has created a whole new set of challenges for product developers. Whether creating plant-based foods that eat like their animal protein counterparts or developing great tasting standalone plant-based products, the obstacles can be significant.

Formulating with plant proteins requires a juggling act when it comes to balancing the functionality, sensory impact, nutrition profile, regulatory status and cost impact of the various ingredients. Two main challenges unique to plant proteins include perfecting functional and sensory attributes.

Functional

Animal and plant proteins are very different in their structure and functionality. While animal proteins are fibrillar and fibrous and play primarily a structural role, plant proteins are less organized and are globular and play more of a functional role. This results in differences in analytical measures such as oil- and water-holding capacity, emulsion capacity/stability, and foaming capacity/stability along with corresponding functional differences in gelation, emulsification, water/fat retention, matrix formation, viscosity, etc.

Protein content and quality also differ significantly between animal and plant proteins. Animal-sourced proteins are complete—containing an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids. Plant-sourced proteins—with the exception of soy—typically are not complete proteins and must therefore be strategically blended with other complimentary proteins to achieve the desired amino acid composition.

Sensory

In addition to structural differences, plant proteins each have their own unique flavor volatiles that often require masking or manipulation. These volatiles can include earthy, grassy, beany, “green,” hay, cardboard and “dirty,” just to name a few. Texturally, plant proteins can differ significantly, with some being dry and chalky, and others being described as gritty or sandy.

In terms of adding flavors to plant proteins, one faces not only the challenges of masking the undesirable flavors mentioned above, but also is challenged with the flavor “dampening” (binding) effect that plant proteins have. Plant proteins will require bolder and more impactful flavors (and possibly a higher usage rate for seasonings and flavors) to compensate for this dampening effect.

While the increasing popularity of food products made with plant proteins does present some new and unique challenges to the product developer, there are flavors, functional raw materials and processing methods that are available to successfully work through these challenges. Given the rapidly increasing consumer demand for new plant-based food products, flavor and functional ingredient suppliers are responding, and are constantly developing new solutions for food and beverage manufacturers.

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Trade groups to Congress: Authorize CBD in supplements

Four dietary supplement trade groups on Tuesday urged Congress to pass legislation clarifying hemp-derived CBD is a lawful dietary ingredient if the supplement meets established product safety and quality criteria.

Lawmakers also were asked to devote sufficient resources to shield consumers from unsafe CBD products.

While FDA has been examining the potential for a rulemaking that would authorize CBD to be added to food and marketed as a dietary supplement, agency officials have stressed such a process could take several years to complete.

Industry representatives have expressed fears that a lack of federal oversight could endanger the health of the public and continue to foster an environment of uncertainty, stymieing investments and innovation.

The U.S. market is already inundated with CBD products and a patchwork of state testing and labeling laws governing them.

Since at least 2015, FDA has asserted CBD can’t be marketed in a dietary supplement under federal law because, in short, the compound was first studied as a pharmaceutical drug. Last year, the agency approved the first CBD medicine, Epidiolex, to treat seizures associated with two severe forms of epilepsy.

Despite the drug-related exclusion above, the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) grants the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) discretion to authorize CBD to be marketed in supplements.

In the Oct. 8 letter to Congress, the trade associations noted any CBD products subject to such a “limited waiver” would need to meet the definition of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill and comply with applicable requirements of the FD&C Act and FDA’s regulations related to dietary supplements, including requirements for new dietary ingredients.

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CBD: A legal and regulatory update

CBD A legal and regulatory update

Over the past few years, cannabidiol (CBD) has become a household term. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters and even grandparents know what CBD is. At the least, they have probably heard of it. Cannabis sativa L. is a plant that includes both marijuana and hemp. CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Hemp has a much lower concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in high amounts in marijuana.

On Dec. 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), changing the landscape for companies involved in the hemp industry. Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, the 2014 Farm Bill governed the growing and cultivation of hemp in the United States. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed for the growing and cultivation of “industrial hemp,” which was defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The 2018 Farm Bill significantly broadens the definition of “hemp” to mean “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Notably, the 2018 Farm Bill simply states “hemp” in its definition, rather than “industrial hemp,” and it includes the specific parts of the plant and its chemical constituents.

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