Immunity ingredients space: From Ayurvedic roots to ocean garden

Immunity ingredients space: From Ayurvedic roots to ocean garden

02 Jul 2018 --- The immunity ingredient space is reaching beyond classical vitamins, such as vitamin C, for immune health, with manufacturers highlighting a range of ingredients for their immune boosting properties. From Ayurvedic roots, botanicals, ocean garden's seaweed and yeast beta glucans, the market continues to diversify and expand to keep a growing market engaged. As John Quilter, Vice President and General Manager, GanedenBC & Wellmune, tells NutritionInsight, “Research shows that improving immune function is a leading health concern among consumers globally, with 87 percent expressing an interest in buying food and beverage products that deliver this benefit.”

A variety of ingredients fall under the umbrella term of immunity, and as a result, it’s vital that immune health ingredients can demonstrate that they will deliver fully researched and evidence-based benefits.

The ingredients, according to Benny Anthony, Joint Managing Director of Arjuna Natural should essentially “keep the gut healthy, must have the ability support to the upkeep of mucous membrane and collagen as well as strengthen the blood vessels and increase the antibody response along with reducing stress,” he tells NutritionInsight.

“The most famous immunity ingredients are vitamin C, vitamin D, probiotics, zinc and several botanicals, namely echinacea, atragalus, garlic, ginger and green tea,” Antonella Riva, Product Research Manager at Indena, tells NutritionInsight.

This report considers some of the key ingredients for immunity, as shared by top suppliers from around the globe. Notable themes include the shift from synthetic to natural for consumers and the vast diversity of ingredients.

Not just for baking: yeast beta glucans 
A “serious emerging force” in the immune health space are beta-glucans – naturally occurring fibers, Quilter from GanedenBC and Wellmune explains.

“Wellmune, a proprietary baker’s yeast beta glucan, is supported by numerous biomarkers, mechanism-of-action and clinical research studies linking it to immune health benefits. However, these benefits are dependent on the specific strain of baker’s yeast used, as well as the manufacturing process.”

“Other commonly used beta glucans include cereal beta glucans, usually oat-based. But while some strains have been shown to deliver cholesterol-reduction benefits, they don’t have a track record of delivering significant immune health benefits. Mushroom beta glucans often pop up in the immune health supplement aisle but their potency has been shown to be lower than beta-glucan from clinically-proven strains of baker’s yeast and are also highly variable due to differences in the biological activities of the numerous types of mushrooms available.”

“Kerry’s Wellmune is a yeast beta 1,3/1,6 which, using a proprietary process, is extracted from the cell wall of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Highly purified, Wellmune is supported by an extensive body of research,” he notes.

Wellmune features in a range of applications from coffee to sports nutrition powders, for functional foods, beverages and supplements. This is a crucial element of the immunity ingredient, Quilter explains, as personalized nutrition is a key trend in the immune health category.

This is because consumers approach immune health from different angles, e.g., a parent will look for something kid-friendly, while aging consumers will look for products that deliver on their unique needs. “For nutrition brands, this means products should be targeted toward these groups and needs and stated in ways that clearly speak to them, using on-pack messaging that resonates.”

“As a result, it makes sense to use an immune health ingredient that can be easily formulated into different types of food, beverage and supplement products – an ingredient just like Wellmune in fact, which is highly versatile in this sense.”

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“Immunity ingredients are very popular because they are not drugs and they are ‘natural’ and endowed with a good safety profile. Within botanicals, echinacea remains the most popular one. It was at the third place of the US 40 top-selling herbal supplements in 2016,” Riva says.

Idena offers a “premium” echinacea extra, Polinacea, which is a triple standardized extract from the roots of echinacea angustifolia. Riva further cites a recent study which found that participants who ingested Polinacea for a month experienced regulated mRNA levels of IL-2 and IL-8 and the down-regulation of the mRNA levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL6.

Further in the botanical family of immunity ingredients, Indena offers a “premium” version of quercetin as the immunity ingredient Phytosome.

“Quercetin is probably the most studied flavonoid. It is endowed with several interesting biological activities including improvement of immunity responses in particular as an anti-allergic product. But the use of Quercetin is hampered by low and erratic absorption especially in humans. We have now available a food grade delivery system that makes quercetin 20 times more bioavailable,” Riva explains. Quercetin is found in many common sources such as onion, grains and kale.

In the case of botanicals for immunity ingredients, not just the trending “natural” tag is important. “We must keep in mind the biomass identification (Indena is the pioneer if DNA barcoding application), the standardization of the active principles and the proprietary clinical documentation,” she adds.

From the ground: Ashwagandha
Coming from the East is “superfood” ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb which has been used for centuries but is now seeing worldwide growth thanks to a growing body of clinical evidence, according to Anthony from Arjuna.

Speaking to NutritionInsight, Anthony notes that Ashwagandha opposes the reactions of stress by reducing the amount of cortisol released, reduces the formation of stress-induced ulcers, boosts sleep and, notably, increases the number of immune cells which aids infection fighting. Click to Enlarge

“Ashwagandha has an impressively wide range of health benefits,” adds Karikeya Baldwa, Director of Ixoreal, which manufactures KSM-66 ashwagandha. “Perhaps its greatest strength is that it combines solid scientific evidence with a long history going back thousands of years, both of which instill confidence and allow marketers to tell interesting stories.”

Far more health delicacies can be sourced from below the ground, including ginger and turmeric, Anthony adds. A combination of 14 herbal extracts from such ingredients can be found in Arjuna’s Herbagut. A human study released in April this year demonstrated that Herbagut supports overall immune health and gut health and provides an anti-inflammatory effect. 

On this topic, Anthony says: “The tradition of Ayurvedic medicine, used for hundreds of years, is finally backed by research and is accessible to consumers who seek natural relief from digestive stress.”

From the sea
Seaweed has been noted as is one to watch in the immune space. In Asian cultures, seaweeds have already been used to address health conditions ranging from nausea, congestion and inflammation through to abscesses and tumors.

Innova Markets Insights data demonstrates the growth of seaweed in the market. Seaweed appeals for a multitude of reasons, including consumer pressure for natural products and the mainstreaming of sustainability. Fabrice Bohin, CEO of Algai, says: “With a high fiber content and various antioxidant, antimicrobial and immunostimulating capacities, seaweed is a natural resource that has a huge potential to be exploited in the health & nutrition market.”

Forward facing
Considering the growing consumer demand, suppliers will continue to innovate in the immunity ingredients space.

Riva from Indena notes that the gut microbiota is essential for the development and regulation of the immune system and the metabolism of the host. Indena is addressing the potential of several botanicals in biological-mediated microbiota responses, she explains. “This screening will fuel our ingredients portfolio in several health applications including the immunological field.”

Immunity ingredients are wide-ranging, from roots to sea gardens, botanicals and beta glucans. Future opportunities include further personalization and the influence of the increasing knowledge of the human microbiome permeating into a huge array of market sectors, including as immunity, may pave the way for exciting combination products.

By Laxmi Haigh

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