A new Australian innovation, 'food for health" drink is generating excitement in the scientific community as a natural formulation to help intestinal health and digestion.
Researchers at the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences at Macquarie University are investigating just how the plant-based natural product affects inflammation of the gut and the gut microbiome. This promising research is part of the ARC Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry, located at Macquarie University - with research funding part of a $2.1 million Australian Research Council grant to explore improvements to foods. The program with MediKane P/L involves three PhD students and one Post-Doctoral Fellow under the supervision of three staff professors and makes use of the multimillion dollar state-of-the-art analytical facilities at the Biomolecular Frontiers Research Centre at Macquarie University.
The product will be marketed as NutriKane D™ and is derived from whole plant sources including gluten-free grains and sugarcane with the sucrose removed. Independent clinical trials have shown that taking NutriKane D™ twice daily has substantial benefits to intestinal health and may benefit those that need to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
Research by the University of Sydney found that the addition of an ingredient found in NutriKane D™ significantly lowered the Glycaemic Index (GI) of food that is important for healthy blood glucose levels.
It is estimated that around half the Australian population complain of some digestive problems, such as constipation, bloating or diarrhoea, in any 12-month period. Research is continuing to support that intestinal health, and particularly the microbiome, is also linked to blood glucose maintenance.
'The product is certainly generating a lot of research interest," said Professor Nicolle Packer, from the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences at Macquarie University. 'We are exploring NutriKane's effect on inflammatory factors, microbiological species and micronutrients in the gut and working to clarify the specific mode of action.
'The beneficial effects of food on human health is an important area of research for us and this product is looking like it has a very positive effect," Prof Packer said.
The product was recently incorporated into a trial at Royal Melbourne Hospital where it was a key part of two structured bowel management programs for 143 patients experiencing bladder or bowel dysfunction. The researchers concluded that this style of program – incorporating NutriKane D – can improve bowel symptoms and enhance overall quality of life.
Dr Ian Humphrey, a prominent Paediatrician and Allergist from Melbourne, said: 'In addition to the known beneficial effects of dietary fibre, there is evidence that NutriKane D may improve the health of the gastrointestinal mucosa (lining) and anecdotal evidence of significant improvement in glycaemic control beyond that seen with other forms of fibre. These features would make NutriKane D a truly novel form of fibre."
MediKane Chief Technical Officer Dr Malcolm Ball says that it has long been known that diet is a major factor in blood glucose management, and it is becoming clear that micronutrients such as bioavailable chromium, zinc and certain vitamins as well as a healthy microbiome play a critical role.
'One of the challenges facing people trying to manage their diet is that it can be quite difficult to get the micronutrients and prebiotics you need even if you are making an effort to eat well, and artificial supplements and tablets simply lack the complexity of whole foods thus limiting their usefulness.
'NutriKane D has been formulated as a food and has now been shown to contain some essential nutrients such as chromium. The latest research from Macquarie University has also shown that NutriKane D promotes the growth of a healthy microbiome of intestinal bacteria that produce beneficial short chain fatty acids. The next step is to link this to our observed clinical benefits with large scale randomised trials," said Dr Ball.
'These essential nutrients have also been proposed to be important in maintaining an optimal range of blood glucose levels. The product is made from safe high quality foods and in addition to the potential benefits to blood glucose maintenance appears to have many general health benefits. " said Dr Ball.
NutriKane D has recently been made available online at Diabetes NSW.
Malcolm has worked in the field of glycoproteins since 1995 and completed his PhD in this field in 2002. He worked as Head Researcher in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Eye Research and Technology, as the Head of Proteomics at Apollo Life Sciences, and as the Senior Scientist in proteomics at Fluorotechnics Pty. Ltd. Malcolm has also consulted on many projects for entities such as CibaVision, Johnson and Johnson, Macquarie University, Medical Therapeutics Pty Ltd and Novotech Pty Ltd. Malcolm has been associated with Macquarie University for the last 20 years. Glycoproteins are small molecules found on the outside surface of all body cells and are vital to a number of important biological functions. They allow certain types of cell-to-cell communication, help coordinate complicated cellular responses to stimuli, and activate the action of other types of cells. Glycoprotein interactions are responsible for metabolism and inflammation and are targets for many of the new generation pharmaceuticals currently being developed.
Question: What is Nutrikane?
Dr Malcolm Ball: NutriKane D is a natural health treatment based on Australian research, made in Australia from Australian ingredients. It has been formulated to specifically improve our diets in ways that have been scientifically proven to improve our digestion and wellbeing.
Question: What are the ingredients of the Nutrikane drink?
Dr Malcolm Ball: NutriKane D contains red sorghum, sugarcane with the sugar removed, citric acid (found in lemons and other citrus fruits), potassium bicarbonate (a form of baking powder), natural orange oil flavour, and a little bit of stevia for sweetness.
Question: Why has Nutrikane been described as 'The breakthrough that could help control blood glucose levels"?
Dr Malcolm Ball: The importance of diet to health is not a new concept. Eating well and exercising makes a big positive impact on our lives. The secret behind NutriKane D is that we have applied the scientific rigour of medicine to foods. That said, it is important to remember that NutriKane D is a natural food product so it does not replace a good diet – but what it can do is make a meal more nutritious. For many people, this improvement is enough to positively impact their blood glucose management.
Question: Is Nutrikane only beneficial to those who need to control their blood glucose levels?
Dr Malcolm Ball: No, everyone can benefit from improved digestion and a good, nutritious diet. More and more is being learnt about the way the microbes living in our gut (the microbiome) affect all aspects of our health, and the microbiome needs to be fed good food. NutriKane D has been shown in scientific trials to be good food for the microbiome.
Question: What are the benefits of Nutrikane on a diabetes patient?
Dr Malcolm Ball: NutriKane D has several benefits for all people, not just those living with diabetes. That said, of particular importance to diabetes management is inflammation - proven to be a major contributor to secondary conditions such as poor circulation and eye degeneration. NutriKane D provides essential micronutrients (such as chromium which is essential for insulin function), antioxidants that reduce inflammation and prebiotics that help improve digestion. Consequently, the body is better able to digest food which flows on to better metabolism and more effective blood glucose management.
Question: What are the benefits of Nutrikane on someone who doesn't have diabetes?
Dr Malcolm Ball: The benefits are really the same whether people are living with diabetes or not. Your metabolism is like a sound-board with hundreds of dials. NutriKane D allows the body to re-adjust those dials, in some cases that results in blood glucose management, in others it improves regularity, and for others it reduces fatigue. This is why all the best authorities in the world are treating diabetes with a holistic regimen of diet AND exercise AND supplementation AND pharmaceuticals. Because complex metabolic problems require a co-ordinated solution.
Question: How does Nutrikane benefit intestinal health and digestion?
Dr Malcolm Ball: NutriKane D benefits intestinal health and digestion in 3 main ways:
1) NutriKane D provides the body with very effective prebiotic fibres and gives good intestinal (probiotic) bacteria food to grow. When the good bacteria grow, they prevent the bad (pro-inflammatory) bacteria from thriving.
2) NutriKane D contains the vitamins and minerals that good bacteria need. When intestinal bacteria are grown in the presence of NutriKane, bad bacteria are reduced and good bacteria are increased. NutriKane D may also promote the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are essential to good intestinal health.
3) NutriKane D provides minerals and trace elements that are useful for us directly, and they are locked in the fibre matrix that allows for slow release over time.
Question: Can you talk us through the results of the Nutrikane research?
Dr Malcolm Ball: MediKane, the company behind NutriKane D, has been researching the benefits and biological mechanisms of NutriKane D for 5 years now.
The Sydney University Glycaemic Index Research Service showed that if a single sachet of NutriKane D was consumed with a meal then it lowered the glycaemic index (GI) of that meal. The Royal Melbourne Hospital has performed 2 clinical trials (published in respected medical journals) that showed including NutriKane into their treatment regimen resulted in dramatic improvement in intestinal health of patients – even if other treatments weren't working.
Macquarie University and MediKane have also partnered to determine the mechanisms behind NutriKane D's benefit - research which is currently ongoing. MediKane is also currently working with practicing healthcare professionals to see what happens when NutriKane is part of a daily dietary regimen. So far, anecdotal evidence suggests blood glucose management and intestinal health improved and inflammation lessened. The results of these initial studies have been so positive that several hospitals and research institutions are looking to expand the trials and we are in the process of running randomised placebo controlled trials (the absolute gold standard) now.
Question: When will Nutrikane be available for Australian consumption?
Dr Malcolm Ball: NutriKane D is available right now through the NutriKane Website (www.nutrikane.com.au), health care professionals, selected pharmacies and vitamin stores.
Question: Are there any side effects to Nutrikane?
Dr Malcolm Ball: The overwhelming positive of NutriKane is that, at the very worst, it is still a natural good food that anyone will benefit from. NutriKane is not a medication so taking too much won't have bad effects except that it will affect you the same way eating a whole bag of apples would, as it is high in fibre – you won't get any more benefit than taking the right amount.
Interview by Brooke Hunter