Kiwi pond scum makes a splash in the world of health

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 23/09/2012

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Forget bee pollen and expensive vitamins - a Nelson-grown pond scum is set to be the latest fad for its super antioxidant properties.

Locally grown, astaxanthin is being snapped up throughout America and Asia for its potential to fight cancer and disease.

Derived from the haematococcus pluvialis microaglgae, it is scooped out of shallow Nelson ponds and extracted by Cawthron Institute scientists.

The final product is sold as Astasupreme capsules by Supreme Biotech. A bottle of 30 4mg capsules retails at $30, or $60 for 90.

The algae is said to be the most powerful antioxidant yet discovered.

And the fact it is from New Zealand means it gets a lot of attention, US anesthesiologist and toxicologist Dr Bob Corish said.

Marathon runners, football players and cyclists are among customers.

"Everyone wants a piece of squeaky clean New Zealand," according to Corish.

The slimy stuff has attracted Cornish's attention, and that of the author of America's most visited natural health website, Dr Joseph Mercola.

US inquries increased after Mercola featured an interview about the product on his site.

Astaxanthin carries some strong health claims about its anti-inflammatory properties.

The algae is said to protect skin from sun damage, as well as improve eye, heart, muscle and central nervous system health.

It is said to be easily absorbed and, unlike most antioxidants, can fight multiple free radicals at a time.

"It crosses the blood, brain area and knocks out free radicals in the central nervous system," Corish said. "It can protect against diseases like dementia and stroke." Astasupreme is one of just four astaxanthin products on the global market, competing with products from China, Israel and Sweden.

But not everyone is buying into it. Buyers should beware of products claiming to be 100 per cent natural, and ask whether they were really beneficial and worth the asking price, NZ Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said.

Many health claims for algae had been over-blown through marketing hype, and were under-supported by research data, Hyde said. "Over the past dozen years we've seen lots of claims made for pond scum, ranging from treating cancer and Aids to anti-ageing effects."

She said if it were true, lots of evidence in support of such claims would have surfaced by now.

"You're probably better off sticking with orange juice - certainly it tends to taste a lot better," she said.

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- Sunday Star Times

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