Here’s How We Got Started
Where did the Zenbev idea originate?
The Zenbev idea was created and cultivated by a Canadian Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist, who perceived the need for safe, natural treatment for common sleep and anxiety disorders. Sleep and anxiety issues were very common complaints in his clinical practice and he was frustrated with the limited solutions he could offer. The researcher in him began looking for alternatives. He had studied the rise and fall of synthetic tryptophan in the US market in the 1980s and, in the late 90s began to consider ways of making natural source tryptophan more accessible and readily bio-available.
Tryptophan and why it’s important
Tryptophan is an amino acid we need to get from food, our bodies cannot produce it. Under the right circumstances, tryptophan metabolizes naturally to serotonin and melatonin, which results in calming and sleep inducing effects. The trouble is, these circumstances do not often line up through food intake alone.
How does the tryptophan paradox affect natural tryptophan metabolism?
It had been previously thought impossible to harness the benefits of natural source tryptophan due to the Tryptophan Paradox. Eating more food-source tryptophan actually causes brain levels of tryptophan to decrease. The doctor theorized that he could circumvent this cranial barricade with a simple addition of the right kind of carbohydrate and a source of vitamin B. Instead of another pill, he reasoned that if all this science & thinking was assembled in a food bar it would be easy for people to find, eat and digest, the way nature intended. It was a simple, elegant solution…if it worked. He told his wife, a palliative care social worker, it would take about a year to develop the idea and convinced her to assist him in gathering and testing multiple samples of protein-source tryptophan.
Seven years of R & D later, Zenbev was born and, fortunately, the two decided they quite liked working together.
Research and development of this unique tryptophan delivery vehicle
Over that time, the founders gathered lots of seeds and tested many food sources of tryptophan – from grocery store one offs to pallets of produce delivered to their living room – to conclude that pumpkinseeds suited this purpose and were readily enough available. When the seeds were crushed to remove the oil and heated with a proprietary process they developed, it more than doubled the tryptophan concentration in the seeds, resulting in a highly durable and reliable source of natural tryptophan.
The next challenge was how to coax the brain to absorb the tryptophan, to circumvent the Tryptophan Paradox and assist the natural tryptophan’s journey across the Blood-Brain barrier. Knowledge of diabetes research steered the doctor in the direction of carbohydrates for this task. Various carbohydrates and food sources of Vitamin B were screened to augment the formulation. The next step was to test whether all these pieces put together in a food bar actually resulted in better sleep. They collaborated on a clinical trial to test this food bar theory.
A prototype was made in the pair’s Stratford, Ontario kitchen and a food bar recipe –using this formulation- was tested in a clinical trial published in Nutritional Neuroscience in 2005. This 3 arm study compared the Zenbev prototype against a food bar with natural source tryptophan + carbohydrate, and a placebo with just carbohydrate, no tryptophan. The Zenbev prototype and the bar with tryptophan and carbohydrate beat out the placebo and both improved sleep. The surprise was that the Zenbev formulation bar outperformed in the middle of the night. It seems that the food-source of tryptophan has a better bioavailability and acts in a time release manner to metabolize throughout the night to restore and protect sleep architecture.
Tryptophan is light sensitive. That means it metabolizes differently in your body depending on available light. If there is sufficient light in your environment, it metabolizes to serotonin, which is your body’s way of calming itself. In the dark, it metabolizes a further step to produce your brain’s own melatonin, which provides the body’s natural chemical conditions to put you to sleep.
A second study, published in The Canadian Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology in 2007, tested social anxiety response against consumption of this formulation when compared to carbohydrate alone. The results recorded significant improvement in the lowering of heart rate (measured with a heart-rate monitor) when subjects who ate the formulation bar were confronted with an anxiety-inducing situation.
To bring the product to market, the decision was made to combine the necessary ingredients into a powder mix that people could combine with their own liquid and consume easily when needed, day or night.
Zenbev takes off
Zenbev, the resulting powdered beverage mix is made up of all food ingredients that encourage beneficial metabolism to the natural calm and sleep inducing properties the brain and body recognize. Simple, elegant, natural and effective… Zenbev