Trending in immunity: Industry roundtable highlights probiotics, microalgae, PEA and vitamin D
26 Nov 2020 --- The COVID-19 crisis has led to a sharp rise in immunity positionings, while NPD skyrocketed in the past year. NutritionInsight speaks with industry experts about the trendiest immunity ingredients and their health benefits.
Ingredients such as pre- and probiotics, whey protein, vitamins D and C, astaxanthin, spirulina and omega 3 fatty acids, as well as turmeric and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), are spotlighted as supporting overall health and immunity.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a huge boost to the immunity products sector. Consumer demand for immune-strengthening products is driving NPD throughout the food and nutrition industries,” says Rita Mateus, Business Development at Allmicroalgae.
Recognizing the trend, Innova Market Insights has crowned “In Tune with Immune” as one of its top ten trends for 2021. Notably, one in three consumers say that concerns about immune health increased in 2020 over 2019.
Probiotics and whey for immunity
Victoria Lam, NZMP global marketing manager, sports & active lifestyle, spotlights probiotics, whey protein and lactoferrin as trending ingredients for immunity.
“It is important to note that not all probiotics support immunity. Their health benefits are strain-dependent, so only certain strains will be beneficial for addressing specific aspects of immunity,” Lam explains.
“NZMP’s LactoB HN001TM and BifidoB HN019TM strains have both been shown to help support immunity, with multiple human clinical trials to provide our customers with the confidence to explore immunity positioning.”
According to Oksana Ritchie, head of marketing at Kyowa Hakko Europe, there is special attention these days given to probiotics, prebiotics and paraprobiotics, sometimes also referred to as postbiotics.
“There are many probiotics out there and consumers are familiar with the benefits of probiotics, particularly for gut health. Consumers associate, quite correctly, gut health and healthy microbiota with a healthy immune system,” Ritchie says.
The second ingredient Lam highlights is whey protein. “As a key macronutrient, high-quality protein breaks down into amino acids to provide building blocks for the body, including critical elements of the immune system such as antibodies, enzymes, immune signaling molecules or hormones and even immune cells themselves.”
Lastly, Lam says lactoferrin is also highly relevant to immunity. It takes 10,000 L of milk to make 1 kg, so it is sometimes referred to as “pink gold.”
“Lactoferrin has anti-microbial and strong antioxidant properties. It is known to attach to harmful molecules or micro-organisms to damage or starve them, triggering an immune response,” Lam explains.
Astaxanthin, spirulina and microalgae are also coming to the fore for their immune-boosting properties.
“The beneficial effects of astaxanthin on various body organs, including the immune system, are associated with its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Astaxanthin helps support a resilient immune system by defending the cells from reactive oxygen species (ROS),” says Solli Brawer, chief scientific officer, Solabia, Algatech Nutrition.
Fucoxanthin, an orange-colored carotenoid, found naturally in seaweed and microalgae, is a powerful antioxidant. In the form of a dietary supplement, it may also support lifestyle-related diseases, such as weight and glucose levels management and liver health, Brawer supports.
“We spotlight microalgae powders as immunity-boosting, such as organic Chlorella vulgaris or Spirulina platensis, or ready-to-use products which can be mixed with curcumin, ginger and black pepper,” says Mateus of Allmicroalgae.
“Microalgae represent an excellent source of natural nutrients with possible applications in several biotechnological sectors. They have also shown immunomodulatory properties,” she says.
Anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA
COVID-19 has sparked increased interest in omegas 3’s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) due to their already known anti-inflammatory properties, supports Sonia Moreno, marketing & project manager at Azur Global Nutrition.
However, it is specialized proresolving mediators (SPMs) that actually have a role in resolving inflammation. SPMs are the active metabolites of EPA and DHA that modulate the immune system toward the resolution of inflammation.
“This is of course of great importance to COVID-19, where the severe disease is characterized by pulmonary hyper-inflammation and potentially life-threatening cytokine storms, but also to many chronic diseases where there’s a low-grade inflammatory status that our immune system is unable to resolve,” Moreno notes.
Vitamin D and other essential nutrients
For DSM, essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and specific probiotic strains can work together to support optimal immune function.
“Vitamin D, for instance, is increasingly moving into the spotlight due to the strong evidence supporting its benefits for immune health, and more recently, its link to COVID-19,” says Geetika Saraswat, global marketing manager, dietary supplements at DSM Nutritional Products.
Scientific experts are advising vitamin D supplementation in populations globally, especially in people at risk of suboptimal vitamin D levels, to inhibit excessive inflammation and support the body’s natural defenses
“Beyond vitamin D, other ingredients such as vitamin C and trace elements like zinc, omega 3 EPA and DHA are well-known to help resolve inflammation and support the immune system,” she adds.
Kyowa Hakko’s Ritchie adds that there is a growing trend in vitamin D, vitamin C, probiotics and glutathione.
“Vitamin D is recommended by some governments to help the population to support their immune response to COVID-19. There are even talks to fortify bread, milk and other staple foods with vitamin D,” she notes.
Taking a multi-angle approach
“What we see happening with regards to immunity-boosting ingredients is that consumers take a multi-angle approach. It’s not one miracle ingredient of the supplement, but a range of vitamins, minerals, plants and herbs to stay healthy,” explains Snezhana Kirina, marketing manager at Vaneeghen.
This also fits the complex nature of the immune system, which works on different levels in the body and is very complex, she adds.
“According to a survey, some of the key supplements or foods that boost immune health are vitamin C, turmeric extract, berries, leafy greens and green tea,” says Kirina
“We believe the future of immune health is in plant-based solutions as this is the basis for vitamins and minerals and a perfect add-on to differentiate existing formulations or create new concepts.”
PEA’s anti-inflammatory properties
PEA is another ingredient that has immune-boosting properties, according to Mariko Hill, product development executive at Gencor.
“PEA has a role in immunity, providing symptomatic relief of cold and flu while reducing the severity of symptoms including fever, headaches and sore throat. This mechanism is mediated by PEA’s immuno-modulatory properties and ability to reduce mast cell degranulation,” Hill says.
In the 1960s, PEA was first introduced in the market under the brand name “Impulsin” as a preventative treatment for influenza and the common cold. In the 1970s, research into PEA’s efficacy against influenza heightened with the publication of six clinical trials. These trials demonstrated and corroborated the beneficial effects of PEA on influenza symptoms.
“Based on the foundation of its anti-inflammatory effects, PEA is well-recognized with over 350 papers documenting its wide range of therapeutic effects such as anti-allergic, analgesic, neuroprotective, anti-influenza and modulation of the immune response in both animal and human studies,” Hills concludes.
The experts continue their conversation about post-pandemic immunity trends in part two of this special report. They highlight e-commerce and healthy eating as trends that will proliferate.
By Kristiana Lalou
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