Researchers uncover immune-boosting fiber

by John Adams

During a three-month study testing the effectiveness of a little-known fiber supplement, a team of University researchers discovered the supplement’s ability to boost human immune function — better than one of the most popular immune boosting supplements on the market.
A team of University researchers led by Dr. Joanne Slavin have concluded from a three-month study that a fiber supplement, arabinogalactan, or AG, is a safe and effective source for dietary fiber. The study also noted AG is more effective at boosting human immune function than echinacea, an immune-boosting nutritional supplement with more than $300 million dollars in sales.
The study’s results of the supplement’s immune-boosting function were conducted in tissue cells. They have spurred more research that will involve testing AG’s immune-enhancing abilities in animals.
Dr. George Fahey, assistant dean of the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois will likely do the research.
The University’s research of AG was sponsored by Larex Inc., which owns the patent to the extraction process for AG.
The company extracts the compound from the bottom 10 feet to 15 feet of the larch tree. The compound is then purified to a white sugar-like substance that easily dissolves in water. Slavin said the substance tasted better than most fiber supplements she had tasted.
“It goes great with Snapple,” she said.
Slavin has proven in past studies that most Americans do not consume the necessary amount of fiber for a healthy diet, and notes the possible consequences of such a diet.
In a September 1996 position paper for the American Dietetic Association co-authored by Slavin, she states that most Americans only eat about 14 to 15 grams of fiber a day while the recommended daily level is in the range of 20 to 35 grams a day. Not reaching the recommended daily serving of fiber could increase the risk of disease.
Slavin said the supplement would probably be used to add about 10 grams of fiber a day. This correlates to a statement in the position paper in which she noted that both colon and rectal cancer cases in the United States could be reduced by about 31 percent if Americans increased their fiber intake by an average of 13 grams a day.
In the paper Slavin said the reason most Americans do not get enough fiber is that the commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and refined grain products contain less than two grams of fiber per serving.
Dr. Peter D’Adamo, author of the 1997 New York Times best-seller, “Eat Right for Your Type,” said, “AG is probably one of the most exciting new discoveries to the nutraceutical (nutritional supplement) industry.” “We’ve already discovered its powerful immune enhancing benefits and ability to promote colon health; as research continues, scientists will likely discover further health benefits.”
Slavin’s research confirms Dr. D’Adamo’s assertions, noting that AG “appears to have broad physiological benefits,” and suggesting that future studies of AG might prove AG’s ability to reduce serum cholesterol levels in some men. This is one of the many possible positive effects of adequate fiber intake.
Larex Inc., a St. Paul-based company with 21 employees, was incorporated in 1993. Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer Bo Nickoloff said Larex achieved its first month of profitability in December 1998 mainly due to the sales of AG, which Larex began selling to the market directly in September. These sales are combined with sales it has been doing since 1994 to other companies which then add AG as an ingredient in their own supplements.