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Be Thoughtful with ORAC!

Can you name this Beautiful Creature?


Dear Friends

The USDA recently removed ORAC values for selected foods from its data base, claiming ORAC values have been grossly misused by marketers.  Furthermore, they claimed that ORAC values are in vitro measurements that have no relevance to the effects a specific bioactive compound may have in the body.  Are we to understand that ORAC is a useless measurement?  I have spoken with David Bell, a consultant for Brunswick Laboratories to understand this issue, who has explained the issue and has given me many sources to read. There is much to this issue.

Unfortunately, the USDA has thrown the baby out with the bath water!  We’ll look at their second assertion first—”… have no relevance ….”

The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) Assay was developed by Brunswick Laboratories in an attempt to measure the free radical neutralizing ability of food.  It has been used primarily as an in vitro analytical tool.  In the original ORAC method, the peroxyl radical was chosen for use in vitro because it represents one of the major radical sources present within the human body.  It is the value most commonly used in the market place today.  Brunswick has recently expanded their ORAC offering with their new ORAC 5.0 which measures all five of the body’s free radical catagories: peroxyl, hydroxyl, superoxide, peroxynitrite, and singlet oxygen.

Brunswick rightly cautions that no in vitro assay that quantifies a characteristic of a nutritional product describes in vivo outcomes.  This, of course, is true for all in vitro measurements including mgs per capsule of vitamins and minerals listed under Supplemental Facts on nutriceutical labels. Issues such as metabolism, bioavailability, mechanisms of action and efficacy are not measured by any such in vitro assay.  To account for these internal dynamics other in vivo tests must be brought into play.  And, it must be done on an item per item basis.  That is good science.

However, to say that ORAC has no relevance or usefulness as a scientific measure for determining the possible therapeutic benefits of a food stuff is a reactive overstatement by the USDA to the food marketing abuses in the corporate world.  ORAC is most often used in food research, and  there has never ever been any question about the validity of ORAC as an in vitro chemistry method.  Proof in point, the AOAC (Association of Analytical Communities), the worldwide provider and facilitator in the development, use and harmonization of validated analytical methods and laboratory quality assurance programs and services, has established ORAC values as reference standards.  The AOAC is the gold standard setter worldwide.

The only controversy at all is that marketing people have tried to use ORAC value as if it was some guarentee of in vivo health outcomes.  And, this is where we have to be careful.  Companies and organizations that bring a product to market simply based on a one time, one dimensional measurement as to its ORAC value, with no other corraborating tests utilized, are missing the standard of good scientific inquiry, and to that the USDA is right to speak out.  But, the ORAC test used in conjunction with other powerful in vivo tests, allows us to connect the dots as to modes of action, and to piece together the puzzle of good health benefits that can be derived from a given product or class of products.

We’ll go deeper into this important topic over the next couple of weeks, using a variety of recently peer reviewed articles relative to ORAC value in conjunction with other testing method—stay tuned.

Sincerely yours,
Seann Bardell

Clinical Note:

Each ingredient within each of our Therapeutic Foods supplements are evaluated through the lense of multiple research tests, and the multitude of outcomes proported by good peer reviewed research.  For example, our Wild Blueberry Extract has been extensively analysed over the last decade as to its ORAC values, NF Kappa B reducing ability (in vivo), isoprostate levels (in vivo), COX 2 levels (in vivo), and to the most current of new and exciting methods of analysis such as TBARS (in vivo).  This kind of scientific scrutiny is applied to the BioImmersion products, and is what makes them truly therapeutic.  

The Last Quiz Answer:

These beauties are Gentoo Penguins.  They populate the Antartic Penisula and numerous islands around this most southern continent.

Gentoos are the 3rd largest species of penguins (there are 17), reaching heights of 30 inches and weights of 12 lbs.

As mates they form long lasting bonds and are highly nurturing as parents.  Their streamlined bodies allow them to swim at speeds of around 22 mph.  Gentoos can remain under water up to 7 minutes and dive as deep as 655 feet.  Whow!

On Tuesday this week Dohrea and I were in Berkeley doing business.  I made reservations for us to have dinner at Chez Panisse Cafe, the restaurant of the ledgendary organic restaurateur, Alice Waters.  What an incredible treat it was.  I had Hog Island clam stew cooked in the fireplace with red wine, fennel and toasted bread crumbs and Dohrea’s dish was Salmon Creek Ranch duck with green bean and chicory salad.  Most times apparently Alice is at her restaurant but this week she was in Italy lecturing at the Slow Foods conference.  If you are not familiar with Ms. Waters you need be.  Here is a video of her interview on 60 Minutes.

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