VAAM marathon training side image The Patented Scientific Sports Drink That Metabolizes Fat Into Energy

Interviewing The Inventor
Dr. Abe Takeshi

The Inventor
Dr. Abe Takeshi, Senior Researcher
- Plant Function Research Institute
  Inventor of VAAM

Amongst forest insects wasps are at the head of the food chain, it takes only 4-5 wasps to kill more than 10,000 honeybees. Senior Researcher - Dr Abe, discovered that the secret of this very unusual stamina stems from wasp larvae, he isolated and identified the various ingredients and discovered that the essential components comprised of a very unusual mixture of amino acids. After applying for a patent on the ingredients in 1989, Dr Abe and Meiji created a joint venture in September 1995, and started producing an amino acid drink called "VAAM". This product was initially targeted at Olympic and national topflight athletes who after using it obtained greater results. Now its target market has expanded to include general sports orientated people, dieters and sports drink lovers all of whom wish to obtain these benefits.

From Nerve Research to Nutriment Research on Wasps

Q: Why did you choose the wasp for your research material?
A: About 20 years ago, after returning from NIH in the US, I began wondering about what type of research I could become involved in. It was during this time that nerve research was becoming more prevalent in the US. This intrigued me, so I decided to take up a post at RIKEN Institute. It was there I decided to study the actual venom of various poisonous insects. I chose wasps as the subject material for my research as there were no large types of wasps in western countries.

When I began this research I was only working with a small common wasp, I was unaware that seven different varieties of wasp existed in Japan. When I initially encountered the largest size of these seven varieties, I was so surprised by their size and unexpected strength. I remember one day, we went out to capture some of these wasps or one of their nests, and one of my students was stung so badly that we had to abandon the activity and in the middle of the night had to find a pharmacy to buy some antihistamine.

Eventually we managed to capture some of this variety of wasp and discovered that its venom is four times greater than the wasps used in my initial studies. "Its great", I said, and so I began concentrating on this type of wasp, and in 1981 I isolated one of the ingredients of the wasp’s venom. I named it "MANDARA Toxin or MDTX". The effect of this toxin is to block the natrium/sodium channels in the nervous system, much like that of tetrodotoxin found in globefish venom. During this period I also found "JOROU spider toxin or GSTX" from the silk spider (Jorou-gumo in Japanese).

Q: How did you find the nutritive liquid of wasp larvae?
A: A wasp’s sting can sometimes causes death, so collecting wasps is to begin defying death. So I began to research their nature in an effort to avoid being stung, it was during this stage that I began to notice some strange things. Firstly wasps despite being on the top of the insect food chain, are very communal and make hives containing thousands of insects, and secondly wasps fly between 70-80 kms per day foraging for food before returning to the nest. Adult wasps have small gullets, like a piece of string, thus they can only carry small amounts of fluid, so how do they get the strength and stamina to fly such long distances? (If they were the size of humans they could fly from Tokyo to Nagoya).

I found a nest and took it back to the lab for observation; there I discovered that every time something touches the mouth of the larvae, the larvae secretes a clear liquid which adult wasps then drink. I analysed this liquid and found that the ingredients were not peptide or protein as I had expected, but an amino acid, which meant that wasps were better at ingestion than humans. The wasp’s amino acid contained 17 of the known 20 kinds of amino acid protein. It contained not only internally produced essential amino acids, but also a lot of inessential aminos also produced internally but not previously considered greatly in nutrition. I already knew that the other five varieties of wasps had similar compositions and this lead to the other question of "How does this nutritive liquid work?"

Burning body fat and avoiding the production of fatigue bi-products like lactic acid

Q: How did you confirm the function of this nutritive liquid?
A: I theorised about this function from their biology/physiology and experimented. First of all, I hypothesised about the structure of this stamina. I estimated that the wasp larvae’s nutrient fluids directly relive fatigue through muscular exercise. I then experimented using mice and various energy producing solutions. VAMM (which is the same amino acid derived from wasp larvae, amino acid nutritive having a different texture to VAMM; casein amino acid, glucose solution and distilled water. Different mice were given different solutions and made to swim for thirty minuets or until drowning occurred. The mouse that had been given VAMM swam much longer than the others, over an hour longer. After checking the lactic acid and glucose levels inside the blood stream, the VAMM mouse displayed very low lactic acid levels, and the levels of glucose hadn’t gone down significantly. Usually when we begin to exercise the body burns glycogen and glucose; this produces lactic acid further raising the body’s acidic levels. High acidic levels causes tiredness and prevents muscular constrictive motions causing cramping of the muscles. According to the result of many experiments, VAMM reduces the production of lactic acid, reduces the burning of glucose for energy and promotes the burning of body fat. VAMM also stabilises the balance of amino acids inside the blood stream, which change due to exercise.

The next step, was researching the effects on humans, I received data that VAAM controls and reduces fatigue caused by exercise, but increases liver function and diet effectiveness. For instance when we run a marathon, ("GOT" [glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase] and "GPT" [glutamic-pyruvic transaminase] levels which demonstrates how much stress the liver is under), the GOT level is between 20-30 prior to running, but it raises to over 100 after running the marathon. If VAAM is taken prior to or during, the marathon then the body can hold down these levels. The data clearly shows that VAAM can also control the reduction of liver function from taking too much alcohol.

Cooperation with a wide variety of companies from Patent Application to production

Q: Did you apply for a patent immediately after you found VAAM’s special composition and function?
A: No, I didn’t. VAAM research started about 10 years ago, during a time where a lot of interesting things were being discovered. Shin-Nittetsu’s, (a Japanese company), Bio Technology division was interested in our research. They had supplied research funding and staff for many years. I appreciated their support and together we applied for an ingredients patent in 1989. After that I got some advice from an "intellectual section", and in association with them we applied for numerous other patents and got them. However Shin-Nittetsu is an investment partner only and Riken is responsible for the day-to-day manufacturing decisions and processes.

Q: How did you make VAAM a product?
A: When reports of our research were published on "Riken News", various interested food and amino acid manufacturers sent their employees to our research lab. As news of our research filtered out other sectors of the food, drink, and drug/medical manufacturers visited us, and we eventually entered into an arrangement to manufacture VAAM as a product. We worked well together and over the next two years managed to solve many of the basic problems of toxicity, until only the problems of taste and cost remained. We found that all acids (with the exception of glutaminic acid), has a very bitter taste which is difficult to change with the addition of juice or something. The next problem was associated with cost. The effective amount of VAAM was 2-3 gms in a can of water, which cost us around 20 yen. Normal soft drink cost was 20-30 sen (100sen=1yen); we couldn’t find any way to make a profitable product either on the taste or cost side. After this many manufacturers gave up trying to make VAAM a product.

However Meiji was a company who has made powdered milk as amino acid product for a long time. They were aware of our problems, after early intervention by them, together we managed to find a way to solve these problems. Finally we made grapefruit tasting sports drink. "VAAM" started selling in 1995.

Q: How do you feel now your result of research is in shops?
A: I’m so happy because the goal of science is to improve the welfare and life style of all people, and research aims to do this. My research has realized this end and that’s why I’m so happy about it. It doesn’t often happen either. A while after we started selling VAAM, I received a telephone call from Meiji where they had made deal with convenience stores to sell VAAM. I went to many convenience stores around my house and if they had VAAM, I bought 4-5 bottles from each store.

Q: Is there any skill to make product perfect?
A: We had a lot of problems out side of research to make "VAAM" but the important thing is that we should take and try to solve them seriously as a part of your research. In making relationships with too many manufactures, the information can sometimes get mixed up, so we have to continually adjust it. Of course, we can’t relate each company confidences to any other company, but we teach to them not to waste both time and money. After all, the most important thing is to generate good teamwork in any situation, and "VAAM " is one great example of excellent teamwork.

Other patents related to VAAM: Muscle persistence agent, nutrition sthenia agent, transfusion agent, alimentation agent, recovery of tiredness agent, lactic agent formation adjustment agent.



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