The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Update on Vegetarian Chondroitin

Posted on March 28, 2012 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

VRG Research Director

In April 2010, The VRG posted on its blog an announcement that Martek Biosciences Corporation, makers of a non-animal-derived omega-3 fatty acid, was developing an all-vegetable chondroitin expected to be on sale in two years. Believed by some to be important for joint health, chondroitin is used to treat the effects of osteoarthritis or related joint conditions. Usually derived from shark (or other animal) cartilage, a non-animal formulation of chondroitin could be used by people who wanted an alternative form of chondroitin.

A March 2012 article on NutraIngredients-USA.com stated that the vegetarian chondroitin project has been discontinued, at least for now, because its cost is predicted to be “prohibitively expensive.” Martek was purchased by DSM in February 2011, and is now part of the DSM Nutrition Lipids division. It had hoped to continue the project, co-ventured with the Japanese company, Seikagaku, to final product development even after the company purchase.

NutraIngredients-USA reported that the vegetarian chondroitin project was considered too expensive by DSM after DSM conducted some consumer research revealing that most people are unaware that chondroitin typically comes from sharks. Without a clientele base cognizant of this fact, DSM reasoned, it would be too costly and challenging to market the benefits of a non-animal chondroitin. Martek initially planned their target marketing niche to be vegetarians, vegans, allergy sufferers, and those searching for eco-friendly products.

Plans to develop a non-animal chondroitin involved microbial fermentation technology similar to that used by the company to create their vegetarian DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid), called life’sDHA™: http://www.dsm.com//en_US/foodandbeverages/public/home/pages/prod-life-dha.jsp.

A new Martek/DSM initiative, an algal “fishless fish oil” blend of DHA and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid, another omega-3 fatty acid), is a vegetarian alternative to fish oil omega-3s. These fatty acids are believed to be important in eye, heart, and brain functioning. Martek/DSM hopes that by the end of 2012 their all-vegetable blend of omega-3s will appear in food products as well as in supplements.

The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including the Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements. Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.

For more information on sources of food ingredients and to purchase our Guide to Food Ingredients, visit the VRG at http://www.vrg.org/ingredients/index.php

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