Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have developed a patented process for extracting compounds known as simmondsins from jojoba meal. The process helps "detoxify" jojoba meal so that it can be fed to animals and, at the same time, yields the most biologically active simmondsins for use in a new hunger satiation ingredient.

Jojoba is a native plant of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, California and Mexico. Jojoba oil, with an annual cash value of $30 million, is already a popular ingredient in cosmetics, shampoos and industrial lubricants. But its meal, left over after oil extraction, until now was believed to be valueless because it contained "toxic" compounds, making it unfit for animal consumption. The meal was usually buried in landfills as waste. Now that another co-product can be produced from jojoba, U.S. farmers may have one more reason to plant the "new" crop.

In the 1980s, when researchers fed weanling mice a diet with 15 percent jojoba meal, the mice ate less and less and lost weight. New research in the 1990s suggested that the "toxic" factor was the compound simmondsin, which stimulates hunger satiation. Once the simmondsins were extracted from jojoba, the meal containing 25-30 percent protein became a nutritious cattle feed.

In 1999, ARS patented a process for isolating and extracting simmondsin from jojoba meal. Since then, the researchers have produced large quantities of simmondsin, which may become a pharmaceutical-grade hunger satiation ingredient.

Marnix Cokelaere with Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium, is conducting animal studies of simmondsin. One commercial nutritional supplement containing simmondsin is now on the market in the United States, but further trials are needed before it would be approved as a pharmaceutical or diet aid.