WASHINGTON (DTN)--Archer Daniels Midland Co. said Jan. 8 it had been awarded a patent covering certain plant-derived health foods known as nutraceuticals that will speed up its growth in the sector.

The patent covers a range of unique nutraceutical compositions that apply to food supplements, functional foods and other nutraceutical products, ADM said.

"This is an extremely important patent for ADM, creating a highly valuable and wide-ranging proprietary position in the nutraceutical market," G. Allen Andreas, ADM's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"Nutraceuticals are a rapidly growing part of ADM," Andreas said, adding that the patent "paves the way for a much greater involvement in the development of new foods, supplements and other nutraceutical products."

ADM said the patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,261,565, covers plant-derived compositions enriched with at least two phytochemicals, or plant-derived chemicals, from a group consisting of isoflavones, lignans, saponins, catechins and phenolic acids.

Combining these phytochemicals with foods, supplements or other nutraceuticals can provide more health benefits than can be achieved from single, uncombined supplements, it said.

ADM, the top U.S. processor of soybeans, already produces a branded dietary supplement, Novasoy, containing soy isoflavones and other phytochemicals. ADM said these have been shown to help maintain cardiovascular, prostate and bone health as well as overall health for women during and after menopause.

There are currently over 100 supplements and functional food products that contain Novasoy isoflavones, ADM said.

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