Dr. Alan. C. Logan, ND, FRSH
As research progresses, it is becoming clear that the chemicals found in plants (also known as phytonutrients) act in a synergistic fashion (Williamson 2001) in the prevention and treatment of a number of medical disorders due to their antioxidant activity. In fact, the combination of two antioxidants taken together provides greater antioxidant activity than the sum of the two taken individually. Additionally, when taken together antioxidants can prevent the potential pro-oxidant effects of biphasic antioxidants such as Vitamin C (Gitto 2001). One recent study, which showed that acerola cherry extract greatly enhances the antioxidant activity of soy and alfalfa against LDL oxidation, provides a clear example of plant synergy in health (Hwang 2001). Thus the combination of a variety of coloured plant ingredients including whole food, herbs and beneficial lactic-acid bacteria provides a synergistic combination that has health promoting potential.
Such is the basis for a plant-based functional food product called greens+ which contains a variety of health promoting plant-based ingredients that have the potential to work in synergy. The anthocyanins from the bilberry, the catechins from the green tea, the isoflavans in the licorice, and the chlorophyll in the sprouts are all different in action. All have unique and potentially complementary roles in the human body and there are many more ingredients in greens+ to benefit from. Although a complete discussion is beyond the scope of this article, the following review will highlight the scientific rationale for some of the ingredients greens+.
As a functional food, greens+ has a place in the prevention of illness and the promotion of health, particularly when you consider that North Americans are far from consuming the 5-10 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables that are recommended daily. Research shows that even when five servings of fruit and vegetable are attained daily, there is a complete lack of variety despite the wide availability in North America. (Scott-Kantor 1996)
The formulation of greens+ addresses this lack of variety. Full spectrum grape extract, for example, provides a rich source of polyphenolic antioxidants, including oligoproanthocyanidins (OPC) from the seeds and resveratrol from the skin (Kiraly-Veghely 1998). The Biovin™ used in greens+ is an entire red grape extract, inclusive of seeds and skin, and has been shown to be well absorbed and tolerated and to exert significant influence on serum antioxidant levels, as well as lowering protein and lipid oxidation (Rao and Yatcilla 1999). Here again is the synergy of the whole fruit at work.
Although traditionally used for adrenal gland support, (Davis and Morris 1991) licorice root extract contains important antioxidant polyphenols, which, along with the triterpenoids and phytoestrogens, may play a role in the documented in vitro and in vivo carcinogen-blocking properties (Wang and Nixon 2001). Additionally, licorice has been shown to protect liver mitochondria against oxidative stresses by way of isoflavan components (Haraguchi 2000). There is also widespread use of licorice within traditional Asian herbal medicine as it is said to enhance the usefulness of other herbs.
Spirulina is usually classified as blue-green algae, and has been used as a food source for at least a thousand years (Kay 1991). Spirulina has been shown to reduce allergic reactions by way of mast cell stabilization, both in vitro and in vivo (Yang 1997, Kim 1998). It also has antiviral properties, may inhibit tumorgenesis, and can promote healthy microflora such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria (Blinkova 2001). The health benefits of lactic acid bacteria are numerous and well described in the scientific literature.
Organic whole brown rice powder also selectively enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria (Benno 1989) and removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the intestines (Takenaka 1991). As well, brown rice and rice bran have been shown to have chemoprotective properties against breast and colon cancer (Hudson 2000) in vitro.
Sprouted grains are the ideal whole food because, in contrast to the seeds or seed product, they have a greater nutritive value, better quality protein and increased bioavailability of essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements (Lintschinger 1997). The germination process has been shown to lead to higher levels of thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and vitamins C and E (Harmuth-Hoene 1987). Reduction of phytates, and other constituents that can bind minerals, by germination process allows for greater absorption (Lintschinger 1997). The formulation includes organic alfalfa, barley, and wheat grass.
Soy sprouts are also a nutrient dense addition, and as with alfalfa, they have phytoestrogens that are cardioprotective (Lissin and Cooke 2000), favourably affect bone turnover and mineral density in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women (Messina and Messina 2000), and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer (Stevens 1997). The phytoestrogens from soy, genistein and diadzein, have known antioxidant potential and were recently shown to work synergistically with Vitamin C in the inhibition of LDL oxidation (Hwang 2000).
Also working synergistically in greens+ are lecithin and phosphatidylcholine, red beet, apple pectin, chlorella, royal jelly, bee pollen, acerola cherry, Siberian ginseng, milk thistle, dulse, gingko biloba, green tea, and bilberry. The safety profile of greens+ is acceptable; certain contraindications and drug interactions apply and adverse effects may be noted.
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