March 30, 2008 New Zealand’s HortResearch has already developed a biosensor that measures hormone levels in saliva in real time to indicate to athletes whether they should be doing more or less training. Now it is on the verge of creating a new product based on fruit, which could dramatically increase muscle power and delay fatigue. Clinical trials are underway on a new natural, fruit-based energy drink which tested off-the-charts in initial experiments. Isolated muscle tissue was exposed to fruit extracts, after which an electrical impulse was delivered. The results showed that muscle power was increased up to 70% and the onset of fatigue delayed by up to 20%. The company is currently in talks with several international sports teams interested in implementing the technology and with specialist nutrition companies about a possible product launch.
Kieran Elborough, business leader for food & health at HortResearch said the company has pinpointed ‘three strong leads’ for the active ingredients in the fruit extracts, which can be sourced from a number of fruits. He also suggests that fruit breeders could develop new fruit varieties with elevated levels of these compounds. Bridget Aisbitt, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation said, however, that ‘if a scientific claim is being made, it is important that the claimed beneficial effects are rigorously tested. New European regulations on nutrition and health claims mean that claims are not allowed without substantial evidence to back them up.’
One of the most likely initial applications of the new discovery is in specialised drinks for athletes who would use them whilst training towards peak fitness and obviously during competitions. Athletes would also use the product to counteract the effects of over-training.
Current sports drinks generally include synthetic ingredients and sugars designed to boost energy and combat dehydration, but such drinks in the future might also include supplements to counteract the effects of overtraining.
‘There is a saying that for elite athletes the most popular form of training is over-training,’ said Elborough. Over-training can have a negative impact on the immune system and can affect hormone levels. ‘Cortisol levels go up and testosterone levels go down,’ said Elborough. ‘We have strong evidence that specific fruit compounds can aid muscle recovery and reinforce immune defences,’ he said. The boost in muscle power is related to rises in the level of testosterone. Elborough declined to explain, however, the mechanism behind the improvements in stamina for ‘commercial’ reasons.