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New formula triangulates solution to mild altitude sickness

A new formula featuring D-ribose and other ingredients aims to help vacationers deal with the symptoms of mild altitude sickness.

Hank Schultz

January 30, 2024

4 Min Read

A new product launch harnesses modern science to help conquer a complaint almost as old as mankind itself: altitude sickness.

The new formula, developed by seasoned natural products chemist Mary Mulry, Ph.D., and a couple of partners, uses a triad of main ingredients to provide a bulwark against this temporary, but vexing issue.

The new product, branded as MTN Ready, is a beverage mix that features three GRAS ingredients: D-ribose, glucarate and dextrose. It is being sold direct to consumers via the company’s website.

Humans aren’t evolved for mountain living

Our hominid progenitors are postulated to have arisen on the East African plains, a region that lies at an elevation of about 3,000 feet or more. But most of human evolution has taken place in low-altitude regions along coasts and rivers. 

As a result, modern humans are not necessarily adapted to high-altitude living. A significant percentage of people will experience symptoms of altitude sickness when venturing above even 4,000 feet.

It’s hard to predict who will have difficulty. The likelihood that a given individual will have problems has little correlation with age or physical fitness and seems more connected to genetic factors.

Most people can adapt to higher altitudes. An extreme example of this is the elaborate acclimatization protocols that climbers of Himalayan peaks undergo. With time, the body makes accommodations, mainly by increasing the amount of red blood cells in the circulatory system to better absorb oxygen from the atmosphere of lower pressure.

Related:D-Ribose Aids Heart Health

But time is the one thing that most visitors to higher altitudes don’t have. A bout of mild altitude sickness, which can include headaches, fatigue and sleep disturbances, can ruin a vacation, given that full acclimatization takes weeks or even months.

Cellular energy production goes haywire

One of the things that goes haywire in the bodies of susceptible people during bouts of altitude sickness is that the lower levels of oxygen in the blood causes the cells’ energy production machinery to underperform.   

As the National Institutes of Health puts it: “In order to maintain ATP homeostasis, and therefore cellular function, the mitochondria require a constant supply of fuels and oxygen.”

When visiting the booth of BioEnergy Life Sciences at a trade show some years ago, Mulry said she was struck by the work the company had done on the effects of its D-ribose ingredient. This complex sugar plays a key role in mitochondrial function.

“They had a patent on ribose for acute mountain sickness,” Mulry told Natural Products Insider. “I asked if anyone had [formulated] a product like that, and they said no.”

Another intriguing line of thinking had to do with Applied Food Sciences’ ingredient, potassium glucarate, which at one time was being researched for its effects on hangovers. Mulry said that effort went moribund when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started to construe that talking about helping with hangover symptoms was in effect an impermissible disease treatment claim.

Mulry noted the symptoms of altitude sickness and those of a hangover have many things in common, and the idea for a new product, which has been branded as MTN Ready, began to take form.

Significant market opportunity

When doing some market research, Mulry said she quickly realized the potential size of the opportunity.

“There are 240 million overnight stays above 8,000 feet per year out of the U.S.,” she said. This considers overnight stays domestically and trips Americans take to high-altitude locations abroad.

“Research shows about 25% of people who go above 8,000 feet will get symptoms. I think that’s a low number because it doesn’t include trouble sleeping,” she added.

Mulry hit upon dextrose as the third ingredient. Her initial thought, she said, was to have another ingredient to round out the mass in the product, which is marketed with a Nutrition Facts panel and is packaged in stick packs to be dissolved in water. But she said dextrose also complements D-ribose as an energy source and is increasingly being talked about as a functional ingredient in its own right.

Getting the word out

Mulry said anecdotal evidence that the partners have gathered from their own informal trials indicates the product can help prevent altitude sickness rather than just helping to ameliorate its symptoms. What the company needs now is a campaign to educate people on altitude sickness and how MTN Ready might help to ward it off.

“Only about 50% of people know what altitude sickness is,” Mulry said.

The company recommends using one or two of the stick packs mixed into water or a beverage every day, starting a few days before the beginning of a mountain visit and lasting through the trip. The product is being sold direct to consumers for $24.99 for a packet of five stick packs.

“What we are really trying to do is to save your vacation. It’s why we came up with the term ‘mountain wellness,’” Mulry said.

Benefits for frequent fliers

Mulry said an additional market also awaits, namely helping people to avoid some of the effects of long-distance air travel. Most airliners, which typically fly at 30,000 feet or higher, are pressurized to an equivalent altitude of about 8,000 feet about sea level.

“I think a lot of what people attribute to jet leg is actually the aftereffects of altitude sickness,” she said.

About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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