DSM and Merck form high-end folate alliance

DSM: "...most of the inquiries we have received have been for health benefits outside the infant/maternal area."

DSM Nutritional Products (DNP) is not abandoning its folic acid (vitamin B9) offering but has added a high-end, folate form aimed at global supplement and food makers in a deal with Merck in Switzerland.

DNP global marketing manager Jacob Bauly told us Metafolin is, “significantly more expensive on a per-kilo basis” than its existing folic acid but that was not a barrier to use due to dosage.

“Since the dosage is only around 200-400 mcg, it actually doesn’t have a big impact on the cost-in-use,” Bauly said, noting ‘regular’ folic acid was likely to form the bulk of its business, especially given its price-driven suitability to meet existing and potential mandatory food fortification demands.

Merck & Cie in Switzerland has been marketing Metafolin (L-5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid (5-MTHF), calcium salt) on its elevated bioavailability, which is backed in several studies, as it is for a glucosamine bound form called Quadrefolic made by Italian supplier Gnosis.

The basis of this is that the body needs to convert folic acid to 5-MTHF for it to be usable.

In the majority of people, this process of converting Folic Acid to MTHF works very well, which is why folic acid is rightly recognised as a very reliable, cost-effective folate source for supplements and food fortification,” Bauly said.

“However, in some specific genotypes, the process of converting Folic Acid to MTHF doesn’t work very efficiently – these are the people who will benefit most from Metafolin.”

Merck & Cie managing director Dr Rudolf Moser said the tie-up would permit, “us to widen our target markets and bring this innovative product to a larger number of people than ever before.

Beyond infant-maternity

Merck has its own ‘women’s health’ focused end-product called Femibion, but Bauly said DSM was keen to pursue other health benefits.

“If you look at the development of a health ingredient, awareness is often built in one health benefit area first, and then it starts to permeate out into other areas,” he said.

“I think we will see this with folates as well – in fact most of the inquiries we have received have been for health benefits outside the infant/maternal area – typically heart health, but also some other exciting new health benefit areas.”

Foods and food supplements were both of interest, although, “so far most of the interest is from supplement brand owners.”

5-MTHF can be found in significant quantities along with the formyltetrahydrofolate form (FTHF), tetrahydrofolate and dihydrofolate in spinach and other leafy greens, although cooking can destroy most of it.

Folic acid is most commonly known to benefit maternal wellbeing and reduce the prevalence of neural tube defects in unborn babies and infants. 

It is backed under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) to contribute to normal blood formation, cell division, maternal tissue growth during pregnancy, psychological functions, metabolism of the immune system, amino acid synthesis and reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinions on some of those claims are here.

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