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New Strategies for Bone Strength and Flexibility—Calcium Alone is Not Enough

An Exclusive Interview with KoACT® Researcher Jennifer Gu, PhD

Lee Swanson, President of Swanson Health Products®

Lee Swanson

Dear Friends and Valued Customers:

Jennifer Gu, PhD, is Director of Research and Development for AIDP, a leading supplier of world-class dietary ingredients and advanced nutraceuticals. Since 2004 she has been responsible for new product development, clinical studies and intellectual property development for AIDP. She has been actively involved in the discovery and commercialization of KoACT. Dr. Gu received her PhD in Experimental Pathology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and completed her post-doctoral work at the California Institute of Technology in the Division of Biology. Dr. Gu holds multiple patents and is a frequent contributor to nutritional journal articles.

As always, I wish you the very best of health,

Jennifer Gu, PhD

Jennifer Gu, PhD

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SWANSON: Dr. Gu, thank you for taking time to speak with us today. Let's start by talking about why bone health is so important, especially for women.

Dr. Gu: Most people understand that it's important to take care of our bones, but I do think it can help by putting it into perspective with some facts and figures. Recent surveys show that 25 percent of Caucasian women in the U.S. have compromised bone health, and of those 25 percent, nearly 18 percent will suffer a fracture at some time in their lives.

If we want to have a good life and really live life in our later years, we really have to start taking care of our bones when we are young. It's a long process, but it's very, very important.

SWANSON: Those numbers are surprising, given the popularity of calcium and vitamin D supplements today. Even doctors routinely recommend these products for women. Why isn't this having a greater impact?

Dr. Gu: The trouble is that calcium and vitamin D only address the calcium needs of the bone. To understand why that is not enough, we need to take a look at the bone structure. Bone is mostly composed of two parts. Fifty percent is inorganic materials, which are calcium-phosphate crystals, and that is what most calcium-based products are addressing. The other 50 percent is the organic protein matrix, which actually forms the framework of the bone.

It's like building a skyscraper: you need the steel framework first, and then you add cement and other materials to create the building. It's the same thing for bones. You have to have the framework first—the organic protein matrix—and then the calcium can come in and build up strong bone.

So you can see that most of the calcium-based bone supplements are only addressing one aspect of bone health. They're missing the organic protein matrix part. That's where KoACT® comes in.

SWANSON: What is KoACT and how is it different?

Dr. Gu: KoACT is the result of many years of research and is designed to address both elements of bone health. KoACT is a calcium collagen chelate, which means that it unites calcium and collagen through a natural chelated bond. It is not simply a blend of calcium and collagen. It is a unique product that has been awarded three U.S. patents.

SWANSON: What types of studies have been done on KoACT and what do they show?

Dr. Gu: KoACT has been the subject of research at major universities using both animal and human models. Put simply, the results show that KoACT can successfully address both key areas of bone health.

The most important study in animals was done at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. In this study, animal subjects whose physiology mimics that of menopausal women were divided into groups. They were given calcium supplementation or KoACT, and they were measured on key markers of bone health over the course of the study. The subjects given KoACT showed significant increases in bone density and bone strength compared to those given only calcium. Even more important here is that the benefit for bone strength was even greater than that for bone density, which shows how important it is to support the framework.

SWANSON: Can you elaborate on that? How is bone strength measured and why is this so important?

Dr. Gu: Yes. Some people tend to avoid this discussion out of concern for animal rights, because these studies require breakage of bone. But in order to truly test the results of any bone-support product, this information is essential.

To test bone strength, researchers apply force to the bone and record the value of the force at the point of breakage. This is called the ultimate load, which represents bone strength force, and it is measured in the exact same place on the exact same bone among all subjects so you get a true comparison.

We've talked about how bones are built like a skyscraper, but for this think of them as a palm tree. A palm tree is strong and rigid, yet it is able to flex and bend to withstand strong hurricane winds. Bone is like this—its strength comes not just from density and rigidity but from flexibility that allows it to withstand external force. This is what the organic protein matrix provides. Without it, our bones would be brittle and would snap like a dry twig, regardless of how much "cement" we have holding them together.

SWANSON: That makes perfect sense. How has KoACT performed in human studies?

Dr. Gu: Recently, an expert in the field of bone health completed a study at Florida State University, which is now being prepared for publication. This was a double-blind placebo-controlled study with post-menopausal female subjects. As in the animal study, subjects were given either calcium or KoACT.

Within three months, individuals in this study who took KoACT displayed significant improvements in bone mineral density, as compared to those taking only calcium and vitamin D. In addition, KoACT tended to increase specific biomarkers that indicate new bone synthesis and suppression of bone degradation. This suggests that in addition to benefiting bone mineral density, KoACT appears to support the development and maintenance of that all-important organic matrix that is the foundation of the bone structure.

SWANSON: It sounds like KoACT could be a significant breakthrough for bone health supplementation. But is it something that replaces what somebody might be doing today, or is it something we can add to our existing supplement protocol?

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Dr. Gu: KoACT provides both calcium and collagen in a unique way that appears to make each ingredient perform better than either one alone. So if you're taking one or the other, you can take KoACT instead. But it's still a good idea to take vitamin D to further aid in calcium absorption, and perhaps vitamin K, which we know has a role in helping deliver calcium to the bones.

SWANSON: Is menopause the time to begin supplementing?

Dr. Gu: There's a perception that it is only in later life that we need to be actively supporting our bones, but that's really not the case.

There are two stages of life when it is very important for women to support bone health. One is at the early stage of growth when we are building toward our peak bone mass, because that peak is going to determine the quality of our bones later in life. The other time is the postmenopausal stage, because that is when women have a significant loss of bone mass and integrity. So young women in their teens and early 20s should consider bone health supplementation, and older women in their menopausal years also should consider such products.

SWANSON: Dr. Gu, thank you so much for talking with us and bringing us this unique new supplement. It sounds like KoACT is going to change the way many people think about—and address—bone health. Congratulations to you and your colleagues for developing this amazing breakthrough.

Dr. Gu: Thank you, Lee, for the opportunity to share our product with your customers. We truly believe it's going to make a big difference in people's lives.