The fruit and vegetable blocks of the food pyramid may be distilled into a capsule capable of supplementing regular nutrition to benefit heart health, if research by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center achieves expected results.
The project, led by principal investigator Dr. David Katz, received a grant this month from the National Safety Associates Corporation to study the cardiac effects of fruit and vegetable nutrients taken in capsule form.
Katz, the director of the Yale-Griffin Center, said he hopes the two-year study, named Juice Plus+ after the capsule used, will show that individuals with insulin resistance benefit from nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Previous studies showed fruit and vegetable nutrients to have diminished effects when taken in isolation, Katz said. But the Juice Plus+ capsule contains multiple nutrients and offers an opportunity to test whether or not the nutrients working in tandem can improve cardiac health.
“The beneficial effect from these foods may not be seen when we isolate the nutrients,” Katz said. “This [approach] preserves just about everything and distils it in a few capsules — Our basic hypothesis is we believe there will be a benefit from taking plant-based nutrients together.”
Katz met with the NSA Corporation at a nutrition conference and was asked to conduct a study analyzing the health effects of Juice Plus+. NSA provided a grant of around $200,000 for the study, Katz said.
The study is scheduled to begin in January and will involve testing Juice Plus+ on roughly 40 subjects over a 12-month period, Katz said.
“We’ll look at the effects of the capsule on an adult population that meets the criterion of having insulin resistance,” Katz said. “This is done using an ultra-sound technique — it’s not an invasive procedure. We use the arm because blood vessels in the arm behave the same as blood vessels in the heart and the rest of the body.”
The Yale-Griffin Center began recruiting efforts this month to find suitable subjects for the study. Zubaida Faridi, the center’s clinical research associate, is responsible for finding appropriate candidates.
“We take people on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Faridi said. “We check their nutrition at regular intervals through food diaries, and later on we very thoroughly analyze the effects the capsule has.”
While both Katz and Faridi said they were confident with the study’s method, both cautioned the Juice Plus+ capsule should be used as a nutritional supplement rather than as a substitute for the regular consumption of fruits and vegetables. Katz said a majority of the American population’s intake of fruits and vegetables falls short of the recommended levels.
“People should not think ‘Great, we don’t have to worry about eating fruits and vegetables when we have the capsule,'” he said.
Jen Ballard, the grants manager for the Yale-Griffin Center, negotiated the final details of the center’s contract with the NSA Corporation. She said she was excited about the study and its potential for expanding the research of nutrients in fruits and vegetables.
Faridi said she expects good results from the study, but said optimism should not distort the research process.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to explore something with the potential of being beneficial and improving health effects,” she said. “I’m interested in the outcome, whatever that may be.”