Five minutes at CPhI worldwide with …
Chemistry Today /Pharma Horizon: What is unique about your product offer?
Andreas Berg Storsve: In the human nutritional supplement space we offer two main krill-based omega-3 products, namely Superba Boost and Superba 2. The main advantage of krill oil is that a high portion of the omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA bound to phospholipids, predominantly phosphatidylcholine (PC). PC- bound omega-3s are not only more easily integrated into cell membranes than omega-3s bound to triglycerides (found in fish oil), but offers the additional advantage of delivering choline to the body. As a result, in addition to the well established benefits of consuming EPA and DHA, Superba Boost qualifies for three choline-specific EFSA claims relating to liver health as well as lipid and homocysteine metabolism.
CT/PH: From a clinical point of view, what advantages?
ABS: In general, it is important to increase the so-called Omega-3 Index. The Omega-3 Index is simply the amount of EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes, expressed as a percentage of total fatty acids. Normally you do not immediately notice the lack of omega-3s in your body, but there is strong evidence that an Index above 8% is related to better general health. For example, a recent study of more than 27,000 individuals found that an Omega-3 Index above 8% was associated with a 35% risk reduction of fatal Coronary Heart Disease relative to individuals with an Omega-3 Index below 4%. This is particularly unsettling given that 90% of the US population are below 4%, with several other regions in the world also showing deficiencies. There is evidence to suggest that phospholipid-bound EPA and DHA are especially potent in increasing the Omega-3 Index, and a recent experimental study investigated the effects of a very high phospholipid krill oil on cholesterol levels in dyslipidemic nonhuman primates. In this study, the increase in Omega-3 Index triggered by krill oil administration was associated with increases in HDL (“good” cholesterol) and decreases in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol in a dose-dependent manner. Dysregulated cholesterol homeostasis is a hallmark of metabolic diseases such as for example non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and this further emphasizes the potential benefits of monitoring your Omega-3 index and supplementing with phospholipid-based omega-3s if necessary.
CT/PH: And what about cognition?
ABS: The number of people beyond the age of 60 will double before 2050. We know from neuroscience research that 60 years of age is a “breaking age” where you can see very clear brain changes, specifically an increased rate of cortical thinning in brain areas important for episodic memory, such as the hippocampus and the temporal lobe. However, it is important to note that the changes that occur vary greatly from individual to individual, and we need to improve our understanding of why some but not others maintain brain structure and function well into old age. Interestingly, research indicates that these individual differences are partly correlated to DHA contents in the blood, even when correcting for confounding factors such as socioeconomical status and age. More specifically, higher DHA levels have been shown to be related to a reduction in the rate of cortical thinning in the temporal cortex. Furthermore, a higher Omega-3 Index is associated with greater hippocampal volume. Although this type of research indicates that mature individuals may benefit from krill oil supplements, it is important to realise that aging is a continual process from before birth and that omega-3 status has been shown to be important for cognitive functioning across the entire human lifespan. Phospholipid-bound omega-3s are involved in synaptogenesis and is a central component of neuronal cell membranes. Our brains are constantly changing and adapting to new environmental demands, and DHA plays a crucial role in this process. In fact, we are currently performing a large study which involves more than 400 US Army soldiers trying to qualify for the elite status US Army Ranger. This selection places high cognitive and physical demands on young soldiers, and we hypothesize that krill oil supplementation will be associated with improved outcomes on a wide range of neurocognitive tests as well as overall selection. So your brain is yet another reason to measure your Omega-3 Index.
CT/PH: What about the source of your product? How sustainable is it?
ABS: For Aker BioMarine and our krill harvesting operation, sustainability has been at the very core of what we do from day one. Companies are now seeing sustainability as an essential part of what they do and striving for sustainable practices is actually a part of their competitive advantage. We actually started by contacting WWF and asked: what do we have to do to be able to harvest krill in Antarctica? As a result of this continuous dialogue with WWF, we have been able to create one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, with a near zero by-catch, fully transparent operations and an MSC certification, the highest sustainability standard for fisheries worldwide. Our products are also 100% traceable from sea to product, which gives consumers an added advantage when choosing their omega-3 supplement. We harvest krill with as limited an environmental footprint as possible, whilst at the same time bringing valuable products to the market to face some of the world’s biggest health challenges.
CT/PH: But why krill, of all sources?
ABS: Krill is very low in the food chain and it is extremely abundant -it is likely largest biomass in the world. Being so low in the food chain, it does not accumulate toxic metals or compounds in the food chain. It is a clearly potent ingredient: in addition to human health improvements, it promotes faster growth and better meat quality in aquaculture as well.
CT/PH: What future product developments should we expect from Aker BioMarine?
ABS: I cannot release many details, but we are always working on increasing our knowledge of the various components of our products. Furthermore, the distribution and absorption of these compounds within key organs is also an important area of research. It is only by having this type of knowledge that we are in a position to design new and innovative products. Understanding the clinical relevance of our products is also a key focus area. For example, we are currently part of a research consortium headed by TNO, a research institution in the Netherlands, to better understand the effects of different compounds on liver health. Metabolic diseases such as non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) is rising sharply around the world, and in order to stay relevant it is important that we contribute to solving these types of societal challenges.
CT/PH: Where does the demand for your supplements come from?
ABS: Our main markets are in the USA, Australia and Europe, but we constantly seek to spread knowledge about our products and expand our customer base. Also, the U.S. omega-3 market is significant, and we still have a relatively small market share compared with the fish oil industry. Together with science and product innovation, educating potential customers about the Omega-3 Index and the advantages of krill is of key importance to drive growth.
CT/PH: Do you think about applying your supplements not only as prevention but also as therapies for neurological diseases?
ABS: We currently do not have any plans to enter the pharmaceutical space. There is great value in prevention through proper nutrition, and a lot of pharmaceutical companies are now trying to enter this space.
CT/PH: What’s next for Aker BioMarine research?
ABS: We are currently running or in the process of planning a large number of pre-clinical and clinical studies, targeted at both healthy populations as well as people with a specific diagnosis. Some of these studies have been mentioned in this interview, others are yet to be made public. One thing I can say is that there is a lot of very exciting science and product development happening at Aker BioMarine these days! We are looking forward to telling you more about these projects very soon!