Synbiotics: The best of both worlds (Part 1) – The benefits and market

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04 Oct 2017 --- To fully understand the ever-evolving gut health space, it is necessary to look not only at probiotics and prebiotics, but also at synbiotics. Synbiotics are dietary supplements or functional food ingredients that contain both prebiotics and probiotics, and these work synergistically to support a healthy intestinal environment.

According to the 2001 article “Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics – approaching a definition” in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the term should be reserved for products in which the prebiotic compound selectively favors the probiotic compound.

The most common probiotic strains used are Bifidobacterium, Lactobacilli, S. boulardii and B. coagulans, according to Shaheen Majeed, President Worldwide, Sabinsa. Meanwhile, bifidogenic and non-digestible oligosaccharides like fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and xyloseoligosaccharide (XOS), inulin and fructans are the most commonly used fibers as prebiotics.

Many companies operating in the gut health space are exploring the potential of synbiotics. Today, in the first part of a special report, NutritionInsight collates the latest thoughts on the synbiotics space from companies that are promoting the products.

Why synbiotics?
In a space dominated by probiotics and prebiotics, it is important to distinguish what makes synbiotics valuable.

“Not all probiotics need to be combined with a prebiotic to function, and in some cases, certain probiotic strains are not affected by these other ingredients,” points out Dr. David Keller, Vice President of Scientific Operations, Ganeden. “The benefits and functions of probiotics are strain specific, meaning that each strain needs to be looked at individually, with science showing the benefits of that specific strain. These studies then only apply to that strain.”

Dr. Keller gives the example of Ganeden’s own patented, shelf-stable probiotic, GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086): “Studies show that the strain delivers the same health benefits regardless of whether a prebiotic is present.”

The benefits of creating a prebiotic to add are thus explained by Dr. Keller in this way: “While the prebiotic does not enhance the activity of GanedenBC30, it is still a great combination for any product, since the benefits of the prebiotic are added to the good bacteria already in the digestive system.”

The uniqueness of synbiotics lies in their synergism, according to Majeed. “Prebiotics viability is improved when used along with probiotics, supporting the survival of the probiotic bacteria during the passage through the upper intestinal tract, and ensuring efficient implantation of probiotics in the colon as well as stimulating the growth of probiotics and ubiquitous bacteria,” Majeed explains.

Similarly, probiotics are vulnerable to pH and temperature variations as well as the negative impact of oxygen, and acid and bile secretions. “In the company of prebiotic ‘food,’ probiotics get optimal nourishment and protection, thus stand a better chance of surviving and proliferating” Majeed adds. “Overall, this synergism may help in maintaining the intestinal homeostasis and a healthy body.”

“For the consumer, the benefit is clearly to have a convenient 2-in-1 product, if the two ingredients are blended together in a stick pack for instance,” says Charlotte Beyerholm, Global Marketing Manager, Chr. Hansen. “Chr. Hansen has developed two combo-sticks: One with the BB-12 strain and FOS and one with the combination of BB-12 and LA-5 strains and Inulin.”

Market for synbiotics and consumer trends
The future looks very promising for synbiotics’ market growth, according to Majeed. “Growing health awareness and knowledge among consumers about nutritional supplements are expected to play a major role in driving the sales of synbiotics in coming years,” Majeed says. “Additionally, the rising importance of fibers in the food and beverage industry will help synbiotics find their place in dairy products, pet foods and pharmaceutical industries.”

Several players with a robust manufacturing base of food and beverage – along with the growing popularity of functional foods in territories like the US, Europe, Asia Pacific, Brazil and South Africa – are expected to have a positive influence on the future growth of the synbiotics market, according to Majeed.

Check back in on Friday, 6 October when NutritionInsight looks at innovation and new product development in synbiotics.

By Paul Creasy

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