The supplement, Nou-Katsu Seven Amino, contains seven essential amino acids which are leucine, phenylalanine, lysine (as hydrochloride), isoleucine, histidine (as hydrochloride), valine, and tryptophan.
Masami Kaneko, from the direct marketing department, at Ajinomoto said: “It has the ability to maintain attention and cognitive flexibility which are part of cognitive functions that decline with age,
“It also supports positive feelings in healthy middle-aged and elderly who care about their cognitive function deterioration.”
The launch of this supplement was based on the findings of a recent double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial conducted by Ajinomoto.
Using the same formulation as the supplement, the study enrolled subjects who were healthy with no impairment in learning function and not diagnosed with dementia, although they had some forgetfulness.
They were grouped into control (placebo), 3g and 6g. The formulation comes in a granular powder which can dissolve in the mouth, or mixed with water.
Researchers found that participants in the 6g group had significantly improved attention and working memory compared to the placebo (p=0.04) after 12 weeks of intake.
The difference between the 3g group and the placebo group was not significant (p=0.94).
The 6g group also saw higher scores associated to positive emotion, which researchers explained that some amino acids such as tryptophan and phenylalanine may incur anti-depressant-like effects.
The seven amino acids present also make up neurotransmitters in the brain, which play important roles in learning, memory, attention and motivation.
From these findings, Ajinomoto decided to develop a product for the mass market, targeting healthy middle-aged and elderly people who are concerned about their cognitive function.
Nou-Katsu Seven Amino comes in the same granular powder, in 3g sachets. The recommended dosage is twice daily, totaling 6g of intake.
Michihiro Takada, one of the researchers involved in the study from the Ajinomoto Research Institute for Bioscience Products & Fine Chemicals, said: “Japan is a rapidly aging country. People over the age of 65 make up a quarter of Japan's population already. As the elderly population increases, along with other issues, the decline in cognitive function has become a major social issue,
“Since deterioration of cognitive function interferes with daily life, maintaining and improving cognitive function is important from the viewpoint of reducing the burden on society as a whole, such as medical care and long-term care, as well as helping to maintain and improve quality of life.”
In a study published in PLoS One in 2016, the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) prevalence was about 17% among more than 4,000 older Japanese adults (65 years or older). MCI is also associated with increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Nou-Katsu Seven Amino is registered as a food with function claim (FFC) in Japan.
Ajinomoto is aiming to achieve JPY 300 million (US$2.7m) in sales in FY 2021.
For now, the supplement is only available at Ajinomoto Direct, the firm’s online store.
Ajinomoto currently has another amino acid supplement such as Mai-asa-hisuchiｊin which contains to reduce mental fatigue, Glyna for improving sleep quality and Amino Aile to help improve walking function.
The firm hopes to tap the results of its research on amino acids to develop more products targeting various health issues.