Deep dive on digestives I: Enzymes, FGIDs and precision probiotics
21 Dec 2022 --- The digestives’ segment has seen interest over the last few years as consumers are becoming more aware of the relationship between the gut and overall health and its links to disease prevention and immunity. Another factor is the prevalence of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Functional Dyspepsia.
In this first of a two-part Special Report on digestives, NutritionInsight speaks with industry experts from Nutiani, Bioiberica S.A.U. and AB-Biotics about how growing consumer knowledge around digestives is spawning innovations in ingredients and applications.
“As in other areas of health and well-being, the focus around digestive health now and in the near future is prevention and proactiveness,” says Miquel Bonachera, executive director and co-founder at AB-Biotics. “Consumers are looking for solutions that will help maintain a good gut health status, ensure healthy aging and prevent disease where possible.”
“Today, many people suffer from digestive discomfort. Worldwide, digestive problems – including food intolerances – are becoming more prevalent as a result of the aging population, poor dietary habits and lifestyle choices, and more advanced diagnostic tools detecting their presence,” says Jaume Reguant, healthcare director at Bioiberica.
Bonachera states that health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking supplements for support to prevent or address digestive concerns, like food intolerances.
Marshall Fong, senior global marketing manager, active living at Nutiani, explains that consumers increasingly understand that good digestive health is nearly synonymous with good overall health.
“In a nationally-representative survey on US adults over 18, conducted by Fonterra in May 2022, 65% of respondents who regularly take probiotic supplements are using them for digestive health, many reported using them for other reasons as well: 35% for immunity, 20% for weight management, 19% for better skin, 18% for mood or stress and 12% for feminine care,” he says.
Toward a functional future
The three companies agree that the nutrients pushing the space forward run the gamut from pre-, pro- and postbiotics to functional enzymatic solutions.
AB-Biotics holds that personalized nutrition, such as precision probiotics, is another factor to keep an eye on.
“They include clinically-tested strains that target specific bodily mechanisms, such as producing a key metabolite or interacting with a particular metabolic pathway and differ from probiotics used for gut modulation, which take a broader approach to modifying the composition of the microbiota,” Bonachera elaborates.
“The benefit of precision probiotics lies in their ability to play a significant role in personalized preventative therapies with a strong focus on specific health areas, fulfilling the needs of a large range of consumer needs.”
Fong notes the significance of some of the clinical evidence surrounding Nutiani’s probiotic strains, which has revealed benefits beyond current uses.
“For example, in addition to the 28 clinical studies supporting the value of Nutiani HN001 in digestive and immune health, a recent, 60-day study showed that consumers who took HN001 experienced greater happiness, as assessed by the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire,” Fong explains.
“We are currently validating those results in a larger randomized controlled trial, but the results add to those from two previous human trials demonstrating benefits of HN001 in mental wellness – a randomized clinical trial on 423 women, conducted at the University of Auckland, found that those taking HN001 had 1/30th the risk of developing postnatal depression than those taking placebo and a smaller randomized clinical trial on 33 people with prediabetes showed a significant improvement in mental wellness, as assessed by a Short Form 12 questionnaire.”
Meanwhile, Bioiberica touts the power of enzyme-based solutions as a focus for innovators. Digestive enzymes help to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates in the body and naturally allow humans to absorb nutrients from food.
Reguant underscores that many supplements on the market contain enzymes like protease, lipase or amylase to aid digestion and nutrient absorption but notes that digestive enzymes that aid in food intolerances – like the company’s digestive health solution, DAOgest, which targets histamine intolerance – are also growing in popularity.
The company states that even though this gastrointestinal condition is thought to affect 1 to 3% of the global population, it is still largely unaddressed by the nutraceutical industry.
“The enzyme market for food intolerances is a small but growing segment in the digestive health space primed for innovation – driven by our increasing understanding of how enzyme supplementation may help to manage digestive issues related to enzyme deficiency,” he says.
“For example, the rising number of diagnosed histamine intolerance cases across the world and more awareness of the benefits of diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme is projected to boost demand for DAO supplements, highlighting exciting opportunities for new developments.”
Specific needs call for specific products
Reguant explains that histamine intolerance occurs when the histamine molecule, which naturally occurs in the body as well as in many foods, is not properly degraded within the digestive tract. This results in excess histamine, which can cause allergy-like symptoms and affect a person’s ability to enjoy the foods that they love.
“A low-histamine diet and antihistamines can help manage the associated symptoms, but such diets can be very restrictive and difficult to follow long-term,” he says. “Plus, antihistamines can have side effects, meaning there is significant opportunity for manufacturers to address this prevalent condition.”
He continues: “DAO enzyme supplementation helps break down histamine after eating and drinking, thus decreasing histamine levels in the body and helping to manage histamine intolerance.”
“Bioiberica’s DAOgest is a premium, low-dose DAO enzyme suitable for supplement applications that can help manufacturers break into the histamine intolerance market.”
At the same time, Fong maintains that probiotics still make up the majority of sales in the digestives category.
He stresses that consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about probiotics’ effects on digestive issues but also about the mechanisms connecting gut bacteria to conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, heart disease, anxiety, kidney diseases, obesity, cancer and even schizophrenia.
“Our widely-used probiotic strains, Nutiani HN019 and Nutiani HN001 are two of the most extensively studied probiotic strains in humans, with 17 trials in digestive health and 45 trials in immune health,” Fong highlights.
“This is important,” he underscores. “A September 2022 nationally-representative survey on over 2,000 US adults showed that probiotic users prefer a 6B CFU, two-strain probiotic supplement that carries a ‘clinically-tested’ claim over a 50B CFU, 12-strain probiotic supplement that doesn’t carry a ‘clinically-tested’ claim.”
He further states that Nutiani HN019 has been shown to reduce gut discomfort, improve symptoms of constipation and may be effective in lessening inflammatory responses in the gut. Moreover, Nutiani HN001 may improve gut integrity and barrier function and could increase the absorption of some minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium.
AB-Biotics states that its probiotic solutions are aimed at addressing the most common FGIDs – like IBS – noting that many of these conditions are strongly linked to psychological states and could be the result of interactions within the gut-brain axis.
“AB-Biotics’ patented i3.1 probiotic formula, which includes P. acidilactici KABP 021, L. plantarum KABP 022 and L. plantarum KABP 023, has shown positive effects on the gut-brain axis, modulating several gut factors linked to the development of FGIDs,” Bonachera explains.
“Specifically, i3.1 has been shown to improve gut permeability and gut inflammation as well as correcting microbiota dysbiosis – all of this contributes to improving the quality of life of IBS sufferers,” he says. “A recent study also demonstrated that the same strain combination not only improved symptoms of FGIDs like IBS but also helped individuals suffering from stress-induced diarrhea.”
Bonachera concludes by encouraging customers to keep their eyes on postbiotics in the coming year as they have a competitive advantage in the better-for-you functional F&B categories due to longer shelf life and postbiotics’ ability to easily be added to a range of foods without altering the taste or requiring extra preservatives.
In the second of our two-part Special Report on digestives, NutritionInsight speaks with industry experts from Sensus, Kerry and ADM about old and new digestives and their health-associated benefits and possible future advancements.
By William Bradford Nichols
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