100 years of investing in science, technology and sustainability creates a roadmap for the future of wellness — article

Evolving and innovating the botanical ingredient industry for a century has changed health care today and carved a path for the future of wellness.

December 6, 2021

6 Min Read

Today’s consumers want more from their supplement brand than a pill and a promise that what’s inside will benefit their health. They’re savvy and scientifically minded. With unprecedented access to information, they are hip to the latest technologies, and also sensitive to how their products are sourced and produced.

To remain competitive, brand manufacturers must satisfy these consumer demands for scientific rigor, innovation and sustainability.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult, because Indena has spent the last 100 years doing the hard work for them.

The family-owned botanicals supplier offers a single, safe source of functional ingredients that have undergone a number of clinical trials to prove efficacy. Based in Milan, Italy, Indena has pioneered many of the technologies and standards that have helped transform the natural products industry into a global business with sales, according to the 2021 Nutrition Business Journal Global Supplement Report, are north of $155 billion. Yet Indena is a company that recognizes that success is only possible if it treats both people and the planet with respect.

An active research program 

Indena proves that Science is our Nature by investing about 10% of its annual turnover in research and development. Its vast portfolio of standardized botanical extracts includes nearly a dozen ingredients powered by the company’s proprietary Phytosome technology.

Indena introduced its all-natural delivery system as a first of its kind for boosting bioavailability well before the industry widely adopted lipids for enhanced intestinal absorption of functional ingredients, particularly for those that are poorly absorbed by the body.[1]

One such ingredient is curcumin, the collective name for the active phytochemical compounds in turmeric root. Meriva® Curcumin Phytosomeis backed by over 35 scientific studies involving more than 2,000 subjects. Research on the Phytosome-enabled curcumin extract has shown efficacy across a range of health conditions, from healthy blood vessel function[2],[3] to skin health[4] to bone and joint health.[5],[6]

Indena continues to invest in important research—even evaluating botanical consumption related to COVID-19.

In 2021, researchers published a pair of human studies that suggest the company’s Quercefit® Phytosome supplementation helps the health condition of people in the initial phases of SARS-CoV-2, without substituting the standard treatments envisaged by the medical protocols[7],[8]. The severity of illness often depends by the way the initial phases are faced.Furthermore, it has been verified that Quercefit® accelerates the process of negativization in tests to identify the virus.

Technology is in Indena’s DNA

Indena may have been born in the Industrial Age, but it has grown up in the Digital Age.

This evolution is most apparent in how the company tracks the genetic identity of the raw materials used in its botanical extracts. Precise identification of plant species isn’t just necessary to protect against adulteration and quality issues. A brand’s reputation hinges on providing an efficacious product to its customers, because even variations within a species may affect the end results.

That’s why Indena has spent the last decade perfecting a DNA barcoding system that employs an array of DNA-based technologies, including DNA fingerprinting, PCR-based tools and specific DNA-Next Generation Sequencing. Underpinning this suite of state-of-the-art genomic tools is an herbarium that contains about 5,000 classified and validated botanical samples.

The effort culminated with the development of a method to identify botanical species using an extracted fragment of DNA with a portable device that uses artificial intelligence to interpret the results. Indena first validated the technology in 2020 on its bilberry extract, Mirtoselect®, in a series of triple-blind experiments.

That same year Indena embarked on a new venture with Thorne HealthTech to leverage the capabilities of a subset of AI called machine learning to discover novel benefits for new or known botanical ingredients for applications such as healthy aging nutraceuticals.

Committed to sustainable practices

Indena is equally committed to sustainability, knowing that it can only repeat the successes of the last century by helping preserve the natural resources upon which it depends in the future.

Indena harvests more than 30 million kilograms of botanicals each year across nearly 60 countries, emphasizing cultivated species over wild ones. More than 60% of Indena’s raw material is cultivated, while about two-thirds of the remaining supply uses renewable parts such as leaves and fruit from wild-harvested plant species.

In Madagascar, where Indena sources gotu kola (Centella asiatica), the company has distributed school kits to hundreds of children and other learning materials. In Tanzania, where deforestation threatens the African Silver tree (Terminalia sericea), Indena has supported a conservation project to help manage the forests and encourage forestry training in biodiversity.

More recently, in October 2021, Indena partnered with Alvinesa Natural Ingredients to develop Enovita® Organic, a 100% organic extract derived from Vitis vinifera seeds that supports stress resilience and cardiovascular wellbeing.[9] The grape seeds are by-products of an organic farming system that also upcycles all waste products from the winemaking process. In addition, the extraction process used by Indena employs water rather than chemical solvents.

Investing in research, employing the latest technology and supporting sustainable practices has made Indena a leading supplier in functional ingredients for brand manufacturers. Its history of excellence is the future of dietary supplements.

[1] Subramanian P. “Lipid-Based Nanocarrier System for the Effective Delivery of Nutraceuticals.” Molecules. 2021 Sep; 26(18): 5510.

[2] Steigerwalt R et al. “Meriva®, a lecithinized curcumin delivery system, in diabetic microangiopathy and retinopathy.” Panminerva Med. 2012 Dec;54(1 Suppl 4):11-6.

[3] Appendino G et al. “Potential role of curcumin phytosome (Meriva®) in controlling the evolution of diabetic microangiopathy. A pilot study.” Panminerva Med. 2011 Sep;53(3 Suppl 1):43-9.

[4] Antiga E et al. “Oral Curcumin (Meriva) Is Effective as an Adjuvant Treatment and Is Able to Reduce IL-22 Serum Levels in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:283634.

[5] Belcaro G et al. “Product-evaluation registry of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, for the complementary management of osteoarthritis.” Panminerva Med. 2010 Jun;52(2 Suppl 1):55-62.

[6] Belcaro G et al. “Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients.” Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):337-44.

[7] Di Pierro et al. “Possible Therapeutic Effects of Adjuvant Quercetin Supplementation Against Early-Stage COVID-19 Infection: A Prospective, Randomized, Controlled, and Open-Label Study.” International Journal of General Medicine 2021:14 2359–2366.

[8] Di Pierro et al. “Potential Clinical Benefits of Quercetin in the Early Stage of COVID-19: Results of a Second, Pilot, Randomized, Controlled and Open-Label Clinical Trial.” International Journal of General Medicine 2021:14 2807–2816.

[9] Schön C. “Grape Seed Extract Positively Modulates Blood Pressure and Perceived Stress: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study in Healthy Volunteers.” Nutrients 2021, 13(2), 654.

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