Resistant starch for athletic performance: Australian start-up launches gut hydration system

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21 Nov 2018 --- Australia-based Flinders University start-up, Preserve Health, has launched a two-step hydration system backed by more than 20 years of medical research between Flinders and Yale Universities. The system, called PREPD, uses a unique resistant starch that has been identified as a key factor in promoting hydration in the gut.

“Until now, we have not seen any significant advances in hydration since the first sports drinks were invented over fifty years ago,” claims Preserve Health CEO, David Vincent. “Research shows a 2 percent drop in hydration can reduce athletic performance by up to 30 percent. PREPD changes all this by enhancing the effectiveness of water and any sports drink, reducing dehydration and helping athletes to perform at their peak for longer.”

Co-inventor Prof. Graeme Young from Flinders explains, “While the human body can’t store water in reserve, the resistant starch in PREPD unlocks the largely unused hydration potential of the large intestine to absorb up to five liters  of fluid per day.”

PREPD is a two-part system, used pre and post-exercise, to complement sports drinks. PREPD Prime is to be consumed between 6-18 hours before intense physical exertion, to promote better hydration when performing. PREPD Recover is consumed immediately after heavy exertion to rapidly replenish fluid and electrolytes, while also boosting rehydration in recovery.

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Image credit: PREPD.

Vincent tells NutritionInsight that PREPD can be applied in areas that reach far beyond sports nutrition. The system can provide hydration to anyone suffering from dehydration with applications including emergency services, mining and defense, he claims.

“The unique resistant starch in PREPD is also a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria in the gut) which is fantastic for immune and gut health,” he adds.

Flinders University has ongoing projects uncovering the benefits of resistant starch, including one looking into the ingredient’s potential for reducing malnutrition among infants in low-middle income countries.

“When the project commenced five years ago, we were lucky enough to have the 20 years of medical research between Flinders and Yale Universities behind the technology. This demonstrated a 39 percent improvement in hydration measures in a medical setting compared with the World Health Organization’s current recommended drink,” Vincent says. “After demonstrating significantly better hydration before, during and after exertion in our 2014 clinical trial, the main challenges were developing the taste and texture of the product to be ready for mass consumption.”

The unique resistant starch in PREPD is derived from corn starch and has been granted generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status as a medical food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Similar starches are commonly found in baked products although they will not deliver a benefit to hydration like the starch in PREPD. PREPD is gluten and dairy-free and there are no significant barriers to use. We suggest consuming up to one PREPD Prime drink at least six hours before intense exertion and up to one PREPD Recover drinks afterward within a 24 hours period,” Vincent says.

The benefits of PREPD have recently been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The Flinders University clinical trial involved 27 players from the Adelaide Football Club. 

PREPD formulations were incorporated into player hydration regimes to compare the results with normal practice. The study found that when consuming PREPD pre and post-training, players were significantly better hydrated before, immediately after, and one hour after exertion. The results also showed a 47 percent decrease in player body weight loss between pre-training and recovery.

Launched in two flavors – Mango-Passionfruit and Strawberry-Kiwi – the PREPD drinks are low in sugar content and will be available in a 350ml ready-to-drink, smoothie-like format. Following launch, PREPD will be available to purchase online and in select sports specialty stores and gyms.

“Over the next 12 months, we plan to expand distribution within Australia before establishing manufacturing and distribution partnerships to bring PREPD to Europe and the US,” Vincent notes.

 “We are currently developing a powder version of PREPD in chocolate and vanilla flavors, which are expected to be available from March 2019. Beyond this, we would look to add additional flavors to our ready-to-drink range and have a few other R&D projects on the radar in the long term,” he concludes.

Resistant starch is a key platform for innovation within the nutritional ingredients space, with recent regulatory moves around a dietary fiber classification further bolstering potential. In July 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance which identifies eight specific fibers that can be classified as “dietary fibers” on the upcoming Nutrition Facts Label, marking the end of two years of uncertainty for manufacturers. The FDA decision is good news for several fiber ingredient suppliers, including resistant starch. The eight new fibers are: mixed plant cell wall fibers (a broad category that includes fibers like sugar cane fiber and apple fiber, among many others); arabinoxylan; alginate; inulin and inulin-type fructans; high amylose starch (resistant starch 2); galactooligosaccharide; polydextrose; and resistant maltodextrin/dextrin.

Last year, major resistant starch supplier Ingredion received approval of a petition submitted to the FDA, resulting in a qualified health claim enabling food manufacturers to communicate the relationship between high-amylose maize resistant starch and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes on the packages of conventional foods.

One of the key innovations to watch on the resistant starch development front is in the wheat growing space. Earlier this year, we reported that Arcadia Biosciences had achieved two key technology milestones in its High Fiber Resistant Starch (RS) Wheat program. First, through advanced screening and traditional breeding techniques, the company has developed non-transgenic (non-GM) wheat varieties that contain up to 94 percent amylose, the highest levels available. Increased levels of amylose correspond to high levels of resistant starch, which has been proven to deliver significant health benefits. Second, these same wheat varieties deliver levels of total dietary fiber high enough to meet the threshold required by the US FDA for a “good source” of fiber or “high in fiber” designation on consumer packaging.

By Lucy Gunn

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