PhytoQuest sees high-margin healthy-living products as a way for companies and brands to differentiate, grow sales and profits, deliver competitive advantage and meet broader sustainability goals. The opportunities are rich in the convergence of pharmaceuticals, food & beverages, and cosmetics.

Plants and application

Source Food Cosmetic Pharma Supplement
Chinese date
St John’s wort
Wild rice

Uses in Medicine

There are now around 200 iminosugars reported as natural products. However, very few have been widely available for drug discovery and most research has concentrated on the first compounds discovered, i.e. 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ), castanospermine, swainsonine, fagomine, 1,4-dideoxy-1,4-imino-D-arabinitol (DAB) and derivatives/variants of these compounds.
The initial pharmaceutical interest in these compounds was related to their properties as glycosidase inhibitors and this also guided their isolation and early synthesis.
In the last 10 years it has become clear that they do not need to be glycosidase inhibitors in order to have biological effects and that they can, for example, act as immune modulators and chaperones of misfolded proteins without inhibiting glycosidases [1].
It is intriguing that many natural iminosugar compounds now being isolated do not seem to be glycosidase inhibitors but do have very specific effects on, for example, priming for certain cytokine responses or regulating blood sugar.
Natural iminosugar compounds can form the basis of synthetic strategies to produce highly selective molecules. They are stable molecules, usually excreted unchanged, rapidly absorbed and appear to be actively transported around the body.

Uses in Food

Many of our foods already contain iminosugars although their presence has not been widely reported [1]. Most fruits and vegetables considered to be healthy contain iminosugars of one type or another, often in addition to anti-oxidants.
It is interesting to consider whether the iminosugars are the major contributors to health rather than the anti-oxidants which typically fail to show benefits in clinical studies or may even appear detrimental [5].
It is probably the case that plants and micro-organisms benefit from the protection from consumption by herbivores by having iminosugar compounds with broad glycosidase activity, and these compounds will be useful in controlling weight gain, e.g. by reducing release of monosaccharides from complex sugars.
More selective compounds also occur and may have improved health-promoting properties by controlling blood sugar without being glycosidase inhibitors. Different varieties of food plants often differ in their iminosugar profiles. Novel foods such as Stevia bring new potentially therapeutic iminosugars into the diet [6].

Cosmetic Uses

Many natural ingredients used in cosmetic products have roots in traditional medicinal plant uses. However, their modern preparation often removes the iminosugars and so the beneficial compounds may have been lost.
Iminosugars are very water-soluble and traditionally most herbal medicines were prepared in hot water which efficiently extracts iminosugars.
Iminosugars have many properties beneficial to appearance such as reducing inflammation, controlling sugar levels in the skin and have the advantage of being highly stable, colourless and available both orally and topically.