Mental Energy, Stress Relief

Growing consumer concern over mental energy and focus has been the driver of increasing demand for foods and beverages. A poll showed 53% of those asked in 2010 were concerned about mental energy and focus, compared with only 39% in 2000.

According to Rodger Jonas, technical director of food and beverage at PLT Health Solutions, “A convergence of evidence supports the use of Sceletium tortuosum for multiple benefits, including cognitive function, focus, improved mood and reduced stress.”

A mental energy drink for calm focus is one example for its use. Sceletium has been used for centuries and has long been thought of as profitable for cultivation.
Indigenous use of Sceletium tortuosum in South Africa has been documented as early as 17th century. Currently, it is used for physical and emotional stress and to induce well-being. In vivo animal studies showed decreased excessive barking in dogs. Decreased cage and travel stress in cats and reduced dementia in dogs and cats has also been shown.

Published clinical studies have also reported improved mood in humans. A dual mechanism of action for Sceletium tortuosum is currently patent-pending. Three clinical studies have been conducted; two manuscripts are still in preparation for publication for MRI, anxiolytic and cognitive functions; and one study was published in 2012 showing safety and tolerability.

Effects on cognitive function were studied at the University of Western Ontario, by Drs. Simon Chiu and Michael Woodbury, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study with 21 volunteers both male and female with no cognitive or mood disorders. Their mean age was 54.6 +/- 6 years. They were given 25mg of Zembrin or placebo daily. Parameters evaluated included primarily cognitive function through a battery of tests; secondarily mood by Hamilton Depression Rating Scale; and also safety and tolerability.

Results showed evidence of selective and significant improvement in key cognitive domains. Significant improvement in cognitive flexibility, or the ability to shift attention between two or more tasks, and to adapt to rapidly changing directions and intelligently utilize the information was shown. Cognitive flexibility is necessary for decision making, impulse control and strategy formation. Another area of improvement shown in this study was in executive function, referring to initiative, judgment, discipline, the spontaneous ability to take action and goal-directed behavior.

“Stress negatively affects cognitive flexibility and executive function,” explained Jonas.

Sceletium tortuosum also has been clinically proven to reduce stress. Using the HAM-D score, the gold standard used to assess severity of depression and response to therapy in clinical research, this study showed reduction of stress and improved mood manifested through statistically significant improved sleep quality, less fatigue, enhanced work performance, enhanced interest in daily activities, and less irritability, worry and insecurity.

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor
“Sustainable Energy,” Rodger Jonas, technical director of food and beverage, PLT Health Solutions,, 973-984-0900, ext. 246

Higher Bio-actives

Radiant Zone Drying (RZD) is a completely different and effective method of drying food products. RZD does not heat-treat the product, except for an almost negligible amount. RZD allows for dried fruits, vegetables and other foods to retain improved color, flavor and nutrients. For example, a comparison of vitamin C content, which is one of the first nutrients that gets destroyed during other drying methods, shows that with RZD there is no loss of vitamin C. With RZD, a lot can be done to get higher active materials, whether vitamins, antioxidants, colors, flavors or other components.

Rodger Jonas, technical director of food and beverage at PLT Health Solutions, discussed the benefits of using RZD in a Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar. RZD-drying is gentler than freeze-drying, but there are currently limited sources to obtain this patented process. Blueberry products were dried using RZD in extract, juice and puree form. Active levels of antioxidant were measured before and after and showed no loss.

“RZD allows using a fruit, juice or puree to obtain natural vitamin C in the dried powder, containing up to 30% vitamin C for use in beverages or other products,” explained Jonas. RZD-dried products have a two-year shelflife, maintaining levels of active components throughout. RZD is a continuous process, where thin sheets of dried product result, and particle size changes can be made from there. The product is actually small crystals inside flakes. On a weight basis, a 1-cup serving of fruit or vegetables can be provided with, for example, 11g of strawberry powder; 14g of blueberry powder; 3g of spinach powder; or 6g of kale powder.
RZD is always gentler and faster than freeze-drying. 100% pure, whole fruit and vegetable powders that taste and smell exactly like the original product are the result. RZD can make blueberry extracts high in antioxidants. Coconut water has also been dried with RZD, and the flavor comes through. It is a white, sweet, very different powder. This available technology has even been successfully tried on salmon. Now there is talk about an RZD-dried chicken broth. Thinking out of the box, waste streams could be made into powder for disposal. The possibilities are endless.

“Rehydration of RZD powders is very easy and tastes like the original product,” added Jonas.

This patented process uses infrared energy that targets water molecules without disturbing the enzymes, antioxidants or other phytonutrients.

RZD powders have premium flowability, dispersibility and solubility characteristics. Less powder can be used, because the flavor and color are so much higher. After switching to this process, a manufacturer using carrots now uses 30% less and has obtained the optimal sweetness factor.

Combinations of juice, puree and whole fruit can be dried together for different applications and compositions with varying active components. RZD energy efficiency is dramatic. Drying time is approximately 10 minutes—resulting in a high-quality powder at lower cost. Nanotechnology is another interesting technology to mention. Surrounded by a protective barrier with hydrophilic heads and hydrophobic tails, hydrophobic nutraceuticals are trapped inside. Insoluble oils, flavors and other actives, such as CoQ10, can be made small in size and become transparent. Water-soluble components inside will bleed out over time.
Nanotechnology produces clear or bluish solutions that are thermodynamically stable, with large surface areas, vs. larger aggregates being turbid: milky and unstable, with small surface areas. Nanotechnology is used now in laundry detergents, i.e., dispersing lavender oil, so it will not get lost and can be more readily smelled. Because nanoparticles are so small, the body can absorb more, so less is typically needed. These two technologies, RZD and nanotechnology—plus thinking out of the box—are the key to many different outcomes and applications.

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor
“Higher Bio-actives,” Rodger Jonas, technical director of food and beverage, PLT Health Solutions, 973-984-0900, ext. 246