Gut health (part 2): Probiotic growth to continue

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30 May 2018 --- As knowledge of the gut microbiome increases, probiotics have experienced a huge surge in popularity. Not only can they boost the overall health of the microbiome but specific strains can provide answers to some medical conditions. In this report, NutritionInsight notes the importance of scientific research for probiotic strains, growing market applications and novel delivery forms, as informed by Ganeden, Kerry, Fonterra and Anlit. In part one of the gut health series, functional fiber was the focus.

Digestive-related conditions affect more than 70 million people in the US (US Department of Health and Human Services National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2010). As a result, gut health is a top concern for many people.

Innova Market Insights data reflects the growth of a market that does not show signs of stagnating. The data notes that nearly 96 percent of global launches in the 12 months to the end of June 2017 were positioned on a health platform of some kind. Of this, almost 56 percent of introductions featured a digestive health and/or probiotic claim. The Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains are the most common strains in probiotic products.

Click to Enlarge
Michael Bush, Executive Director
at Kerry for Wellmune and GanedenB3

When it comes to probiotics, newer is not always better
“Probiotic strains each possess their own, distinct characteristics which may influence safety, efficacy and their suitability for certain applications. Much more important than the novelty factor is whether a strain is well researched and does the job it’s meant to do,” Michael Bush, Executive Director at Kerry for Wellmune and GanedenB3 tells NutritionInsight.

Indeed, the health benefits of some “probiotics may be general but others may be strain specific and so it’s useful for findings to be demonstrated for each individual strain using several studies of comparable design, rather than extrapolating,” Dr. Stacey Lockyer Ph.D., Nutrition Scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation tells NutritionInsight.

The implications of this for manufacturers is that they, when selecting or recommending a probiotic, “should take the time to look at the research supporting that strain specifically. Because of this, investment in research continues to be a priority and, over the years, we have dedicated our resources to researching the benefits of GanedenBC. A strong branded functional ingredient should be backed by documented safety, efficacy and quality,” adds bush.

Fortunately, for a market that relies heavily on clinical backing and evidence, scientific strives are being made in the probiotic area.

“Scientific tools have come a long way since the invention of the microscope. The development of ‘omics’ methodologies means that now on top of identifying bacterial strains, genes and functional pathways can also be characterized and this data can be used to try to untangle the complex interactions between gut microbiota and health so there is much more to be discovered in this research arena,” says Lockyer. 

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Matt Cushing, Technical Innovation Lead in
 Pediatrics at Fonterra

“Scientific research is looking into everything from phage; viruses that attack bacteria which can disrupt commercial probiotic production – which could possibly explain responders vs. non-responders to probiotics; whether probiotics can act via the gut-brain axis; how probiotics can interact with the immune system; to links between the gut and liver disease,” she adds.

Varying nutritional markets
: As suggested, probiotics are not a homogenous group. Each strain holds different benefits which will influence the application areas they will work best within. GanedenBC, from Kerry, offers the typical digestive and immune health benefits but it also: “Enhances the body’s ability to efficiently utilize protein, making this probiotic an excellent ingredient for use in sports nutrition and meal replacement products. Recent studies showed that combining one billion colony forming units (CFUs) of GanedenBC with one serving of protein increased absorption of 23 important amino acids.”

Infant: Meanwhile, the three probiotic strains offered by Fonterra, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 (SureStart BifidoB 019), Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (SureStart LactoB 001) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) have properties proven to benefit young children and infants. “BifidoB 019 has been shown to support a reduction in respiratory tract infections in infants aged 6-12 months, and when BifidoB 019 was combined with GOS, there was a reduction in a range of childhood illnesses in one to three-year-old children,” Matt Cushing, Technical Innovation Lead in Pediatrics at Fonterra tells NutritionInsight.

Furthermore, Cushing explains that GOS holds potential for growth in infant nutrition, as “GOS contains a wide variety of oligosaccharides, some of which can be found in human breast milk.”

Due to an array of factors, mothers may not choose to breastfeed their children but, human breast milk provides a considerable amount of bioactive compounds. Omitting these from an infant’s diet can result in a different gut microbiota than with breastfeeding. Therefore, the introduction of probiotics into formulas brings their make-up closer to that of human breast milk.

This is important as a key development in the market “is the search for natural components that can mimic the human milk oligosaccharide in breast milk,” adds Cushing.

Seniors: DuPont offers a probiotic product called Howaru Protect Senior. The company presented a meta-analysis that pooled the data from four trials which found that it enhanced key immune cells fighting against bacterial and viral infections in the elderly. 

Allergies: A further foray into probiotics was taken by Chr. Hansen. Research by the company further confirmed the potential of probiotics bringing benefits beyond the gut and into the treatment of peanut allergies. Chr. Hansen partnered with Prota Therapeutics to develop a treatment using its strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG). 

Click to EnlargeProta Therapeutics is pioneering a new form of oral immunotherapy treatment. It combines Chr. Hansen’s specially formulated LGG probiotic strain with targeted doses of proprietary formulations of peanut protein. The procedure is designed to reprogram the immune system’s response to peanuts and eventually develop tolerance. Although a shelf-ready product will be years in the making, the development is exciting, innovative and further shows probiotics reach.

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Probiotic peanut butter fortified with
GanedenBC30 probiotic

Diverse applications
“Spore forming probiotics like GanedenBC30 are now being incorporated into beverages such as instant hot and iced coffee, milk and milk alternatives, vegetable and fruit juices, waters, shakes, energy drinks, and kombuchas,” says Bush. “For foods, snacks such as trail mixes and puffs, cookies, baked goods, nutritional bars, gummy snacks, and peanut and nut butters are popular probiotic fortified innovations,” he adds.

Anlit, producer of children’s supplements, offer probiotic gummies. This delivery form is a “hot trend” for probiotics, Shai Karlinski, VP Sales & Marketing of Anlit, tells NutritionInsight. The popularity of the gummy delivery form “is a clear indication that the consumer is as concerned with the presentation of the product, as the probiotic strain itself.”

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FlapJacked - enriched with 
GanedenBC30 probiotic

Fueling the future
The future of probiotics must be couched within sound scientific research. Karlinski, of Anlit, predicts that this scientific research will lead to more “probiotic products that are condition specific, such as heart health and mood.” Meanwhile, Cushing predicts the continuation of probiotics in infant nutrition industries but also notes the vast potentials in the healthy aging and medical sectors.

Indeed, Bush sees "no end to the march of probiotic bacteria inclusion in an increasing range of foods and beverages."

By Laxmi Haigh 

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