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  5. Launch of EQUELLE Equol-containing food derived from soybeans A new option for women's health who are 40 and over during and after menopause

March 13, 2014

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.


Launch of EQUELLE
Equol-containing food derived from soybeans
A new option for women's health who are 40 and over
during and after menopause

  • Otsuka has been conducting soy research for many years. A joint US-Japan equol research collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Business Division of Otsuka Pharmaceutical, proves that we are the field leader in the research of safety and efficacy of equol. This study contributes to women's health who are 40 and over during and after menopause. The company has also isolated the lactic acid bacterium that produces equol and developed technology to produce equol by fermenting soy germ. On April 2, after 18 years of research, Otsuka will launch EQUELLE, a food product containing equol for easy daily consumption.
  • Due to a rapid decrease in hormone levels after age forty, women undergo a range of physical and emotional changes. Caring for their health during this stage of life will enhance the quality of life and life expectancy. However, women sometimes suffer alone, unable to obtain information on what they need to do, and when. Staff with expert knowledge will be located throughout Japan to explain women 40 and over about the importance of healthcare.
  • Equol, produced from a soy isoflavone, especially daidzen, in the intestine is known to act like an estrogen. But only around 50% of Japanese women and 30% of European and American women have the capacity to produce it. It is important to all women to continuously take equol to maintain and improve health.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Headquarters: Tokyo, President: Taro Iwamoto) has announced the April 2, 2014 launch of EQUELLE at pharmacies, hospitals and clinics nationwide. The product will also be available via the Otsuka Plus One e-commerce website. EQUELLE is a processed food made with lactic acid bacteria from fermented soy germ containing equol.

In an aging society with an increasing average lifespan, 2012 data from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare indicate that the gap between healthy life expectancy and average life expectancy is 9.2 years for men and 12.8 years for women. This means that women are spending around one-seventh of their actual life either bedridden or in care. Because the extension of healthy life expectancy and better quality of life for women is becoming more important, the government has made women's health one of the pillars of the government's "New Health Frontier Strategy".

Rapid falls in hormone levels among women from their forties onwards causes a range of physical and emotional changes, and accurate knowledge and information about these changes is desirable for proper management. In addition, proper care during this stage of life has significant implications for the lives of women as they age, and is important for extending healthy life expectancy.

About Equol

Equol is a metabolite produced from daidzen, a soybean isoflavone, through the action of intestinal bacteria. It is produced within the intestine by consuming soybeans, which bind with estrogen receptors to act like weaker female hormones (estrogen). The consumption of soybeans or soy isoflavones can therefore be expected to contribute to the maintenance and betterment of women's health. However, it is said that only around 50% of people who eat soybeans, such as Japanese and Chinese, and 30% of American and European women produce equol*1. Also, the intestinal bacteria of women who are able to produce equol may fluctuate on a daily basis depending upon their health status and stress levels, so that equol production may vary, or even suddenly cease.
We believe it is important for the maintenance and improvement of women's health that all women, both those who can and cannot produce equol, consume equol on a daily basis.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical research and development

Over many years of soy research, Otsuka Pharmaceutical has focused on the relationship between equol and emotional and physical changes in menopausal women. Research into equol was begun in 1996 at the Saga Nutraceuticals Research Institute, and in 2002 the Lactococcus 20-92, which produces equol, was successfully isolated. Both the Pharmaceuticals Business Division and the Nutraceuticals*2 Business Division have conducted a range of research in both Japan and the U.S. into the safety and usefulness of equol produced using this lactic acid bacterium to ferment soy germ (natural S-equol), resulting in various research reports that have established Otsuka as a global leader in equol research.


Based on 18 years of research, Otsuka Pharmaceutical has developed EQUELLE as an easy way to consume equol on a daily basis. With the launch of EQUELLE, staff with expert knowledge stationed throughout the country, supported by doctors and health care professionals, will communicate to women the importance of looking after their health, who are starting to feel changes associated with the onset of menopause. There are also plans to provide information through seminars and in other formats across Japan on maintaining and promoting women's health and improving quality of life.

Shigeto Uchiyama, the principal equol researcher for 18 years at Otsuka Pharmaceutical's Saga Nutraceuticals Research Institute, says, "We are finally able to launch EQUELLE after a very long period of research into soy isoflavones, the intestinal environment and the action of equol, the discovery of a lactic acid bacterium that produces equol, the development of technology to produce it, and confirmation of its safety and usefulness, and with the cooperation and support of many people. I am confident this product will be a strong ally in maintaining and promoting women's health."

Otsuka Pharmaceutical's main soy initiative apart from EQUELLE is based on the idea that soybeans can be a solution to the world's health and environmental problems. Based on the 'Soylutions' theme, Otsuka has developed new easy and tasty ways of ingesting the nutritional content of whole soybeans and made them available globally. Soylution products introduced to date include baked soy bar SOYJOY(launched 2006), carbonated soy beverage SOYSH (2010) and healthy soy snack SoyCarat(2012).

Otsuka Pharmaceutical will continue to contribute to the health of people the world over by developing innovative products based on the corporate philosophy of "Otsuka-people creating new products for better health worldwide".

  • *1 Journal of Japan Society for Menopause and Women's Health, 20: 313-332, 2012
  • *2 Nutraceuticals:nutrition+pharmaceuticals
    Products developed based on scientific evidence that contribute to the maintenance and promotion of everyday health.

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