Tech solutions mimicking human organs in the future of prebiotics and gut health
23 Feb 2023 --- The consumer interest in gut health will remain steady, according to the nutrition industry. Experts talk us through technological innovations and forecast personalized prebiotics becoming a major trend in the near future.
NutritionInsight speaks with experts from Gnosis by Lesaffre, Sensus, FrieslandCampina Ingredients, ADM and Univar Solutions about the latest development for prebiotics and how technology taps into the sphere.
“Several in-vitro technologies are used to mimic the physiology of human organs, such as gastrointestinal tract compartments. There are numerous possibilities of in-vitro models to characterize the effect of prebiotics and the choice mainly depends on the expected outcomes,” says Clarisse Geraci, product manager at Gnosis by Lesaffre.
“A dynamic model can be used to evaluate the prebiotic’s impact on the modulation of the microbial communities, the metabolic activities or the inflammatory processes over time,” she exemplifies.
Sophie Zillinger Molenaar, global marketing lead for Biotis, FrieslandCampina Ingredients, says that “as more consumers become interested in the benefits of good gut health, there’s no doubt that technological advances will help us unlock many as yet unknown benefits of our microbiota.”
She adds that by using a complex process called microbiome sequencing, scientists are trying to uncover and decode the genetic material of our microbiome. “Research has already highlighted how diverse everyone’s gut microbiome is and scientists are now looking at how influencing the gut microbiota could help improve health and patient outcomes.”
“With this technology – as well as others in development – there’s no telling how much we will soon be able to know about the microbiome, how it can support overall health and what we can do to influence our gut health,” Molenaar adds.
“Further, these technologies avoid using animal models and give consistent information to prepare experimental strategies for clinical trials. Technology becomes integral at the preliminary investigation stage as a pre-clinical step,” Geraci comments.
“Technology will never perfectly replicate the human organism, but constant progress offers the opportunity to compile preliminary evidence of the beneficial effects of prebiotics on health,” she adds.
Silvi Siddhu, senior global marketing and technical sales manager for Nutraceuticals at Univar Solutions, says that technology has long played an essential role in developing novel food bioactives and that prebiotics are no exception.
Siddhu says there are several methods for producing well-known prebiotics and for producers to adapt various technologies, such as fermentation technology or ultrasound technology, to develop proprietary methods for their prebiotics are common.
“As we continue to explore different sources and their mechanisms, technology will remain at the forefront of optimizing production methods,” she adds.
Trending in prebiotics
Jolanda Vermulst, manager of market intelligence at Sensus, tells us that prebiotics, such as chicory inulin, are attractive because they deliver a “feel the benefit” effect, as it is related to digestive wellness while having strong consumer-connected benefits such as their ability to replace or reduce sugar while adding fiber.
Siddhu adds that prebiotic sources are no longer limited to non-digestible carbohydrates as other potential sources are being discovered.
“Prebiotic applications continue to expand in the food and beverage, dietary supplement, pet food and animal feed sectors. Synbiotics are also gaining popularity as consumer awareness of the gut microbiome increases and its impact on overall health expands,” says Siddhu.
Molenaar adds that the uprising trend in 2022 on holistic well-being is still going strong.
“We’re in an era defined by climate change, conflict and COVID-19, so it may be no surprise that consumers are turning their focus inwards, prioritizing their gut health and mental well-being. This year we’re likely to see more and more consumers turning to gut health solutions that offer added benefits, such as stress and anxiety reduction and general mood support,” Molenaar asserts.
Geraci details that prebiotics were mainly considered as “fibers” with no clear understanding of how they interact with the microbiome, except that they are beneficial for digestion.
She further details that people seek prebiotic and probiotic combinations, a specific activity or action on gut microbiota or certain prebiotic ingredients.
“There’s also a choice related to health benefits – immunity as well as brain and bone health, for example, are uncovering newfound benefits in the scope of prebiotics,” says Geraci.
Geraci says that the most popular prebiotics are mainly oligosaccharides and inulin.
“The reason is that they’ve been studied for years and accordingly have led the market, particularly in the digestion-fiber axis scope.”
“Most popular are chicory inulin types because they are the only plant-based officially recognized (ISAPP) prebiotic fibers available on the market. Numerous clinical studies demonstrate that chicory inulin types selectively increase bifidobacteria levels in the intestine in the general population. This results in beneficial health effects, notably improving bowel habit and digestive health,” adds Vermulst.
Siddhu says well-known prebiotics include inulin, FOS, GOS, HMOs, acacia gum and XOS.
“However, resistant starch and selected polyphenols, omega 3 fatty acids and beta-glucans have recently shown promising potential as emerging prebiotics. Due to their multiple health benefits and application friendliness, prebiotics is progressively used in varied food formulations.”
“While prebiotics help improve the nutritional profile, they also can enhance sensory characteristics of food, especially oligo and polysaccharides,” she says.
Deanne Dick, director of fiber at ADM, says that fiber continues to take center stage, with consumers looking to add even more fiber to their diets for reasons like digestion, weight management and satiety.
”While fiber is highly sought-after, many people associate it with digestive distress. Nearly 70% of consumers would not purchase a product again if it caused gastrointestinal discomfort,” Dick points out.
Siddhu says that personalized prebiotics may be relatively close in the future.
“Prebiotic nutrition can also be seen in horticulture to improve soil microbial health and crop production. Organizations like the Global Prebiotic Association and International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics are at the forefront of prebiotic research, education and resources and are helping propel exciting industry innovation,” says Siddhu.
Geraci further details that microbiome research tends to accelerate and push innovation in this merging prebiotics category.
“The scope of ingredients is progressively growing, with newcomers such as polyphenols, glucan and yeast hydrolysate – hence, the vast growth potential for this category. Yet, there is a lack of familiarity with prebiotics – types, dosage, applications, the difference between pre- & probiotics, how they can work in synergy and how beneficial they can be for our health.
“Maybe this is where the most immediate efforts should be focused – on a broader spectrum of education around these powerful ingredients,” says Geraci.
Dick details that combining prebiotics and probiotics may be beneficial, “especially as probiotics can be supported by prebiotics that is selectively utilized by good bacteria, conferring a health benefit to humans.”
“One of the most exciting things about the digestive health and prebiotics category is that there is still so much to uncover about the role the gut can play in supporting all aspects of health – from cognitive health to athletic performance,” says Molenaar.
“Research is delving into the complex relationship the gut has with other key parts of our body, and as our scientific understanding grows, so too will the number and variety of product innovations,” she concludes.
By Beatrice Wihlander
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