by Tina Van Horn, Director of Research and Business Development at SL Technology, Inc., a Reliv Company
Our Food Is Leaving Us Empty
Food is not what it used to be. Several studies have shown a significant reduction in the micronutrient content of many fruits and vegetables over the course of the 20th century. The average vegetable found in today’s supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in selected minerals than those harvested 50 years ago.
A combination of factors contributes to the decline, but it is most easily explained by changes in cultivated varieties. As farmers select higher yielding varieties, the carbohydrate content increases, but concentrations of micronutrients decrease, often referred to as the “dilution effect.”
The agriculture industry has prioritized increased yields and improved resistance to pests and disease. This has led to innovations in mechanization and the development of new plant varieties through genetic engineering. Innovations focus on extending shelf life, as well as improving the taste and sensory experience of food. Convenience is now a driving force as consumers seek packaged foods that cut preparation time.
Good News, Bad News
The good news: Advances have created a greater, more affordable food supply. Many deficiency and communicable diseases have essentially been eradicated and we have unprecedented access to a variety of foods, many of which are ready-to-eat, or require minimal preparation.
The bad news: Depletion of micro- and phytonutrients, increased incidences of over nutrition and epidemic rates of chronic disease. “Nutritional research has become much more important, since we can no longer assume that we can obtain all necessary nutrients from diet alone,” notes Reliv Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Carl Hastings.
He adds: “As an example, the Food Science Department at the University of Illinois, my alma mater, has changed its name to the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, with more staff devoted specifically to nutrition research. Other universities have made similar changes in order to address the need for nutrition, not just food.”
Case Study: Lunasin
Research: Meta-analysis of clinical trials shows a 12.5% reduction of LDL cholesterol with the daily consumption of 25 grams of soy protein.
Result: FDA approves health claim in 1999: 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Research: Meta-analysis of clinical trials conducted after the FDA approval shows that, on average, 50 grams soy protein per day reduces LDL cholesterol by just 3%.
Result: American Heart Association (AHA) petitions repeal the 1999 FDA health claim on soy protein.
So what happened between 1995 and 2006 to soy protein’s ability to lower cholesterol? The demand for soy products skyrocketed with the FDA health claim, and producers developed more efficient manufacturing processes to meet that demand. Unfortunately, many of these processes, while increasing yield, removed the component in soy protein responsible for lowering cholesterol in the first place: lunasin.
Research: Clinical study identifies the lunasin peptide in soy protein as the active ingredient responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Result: The American Heart Association invites Dr. Alfredo Galvez, the leader of the study and discoverer of lunasin, to present at its national convention and publishes the study abstract in its journal Circulation in 2012. The very organization seeking to repeal soy protein’s FDA health claim acknowledged lunasin’s ability to support cardiovascular health.
LunaRich Raises the Bar
Dr. Galvez, chief scientific officer at SL Technology, a Reliv company, first discovered lunasin at UC Berkley in 1996 while working to improve the nutritional profile of soy protein. He notes: “At this time, most plant breeding research programs were emphasizing yield, disease, pest and environmental stress resistance, instead of nutritional content.”
More than 80 published studies on lunasin at more than 30 research institutions followed. And today lunasin is available in a highly bioactive form in LunaRich® from Reliv. LunaRich is the culmination of years of trial and error in agriculture production and food processing research that sets the bar for the future of nutrition science.
As policies and priorities emphasize identification of dietary factors contributing to obesity and chronic disease, innovations will emerge that improve the nutritional profile of foods, rather than just make them more convenient, accessible and affordable. LunaRich is leading the way.