CHICAGO – The human digestive system breaks down food and liquids into macro and micro nutrients, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body to keep it functioning. This is only possible with a healthy digestive system, which was poorly understood at the cellular level until the beginning of the 21st century.
âDigestive health research has experienced a kind of renaissance over the past 20 years,â said Becca Henrickson, Marketing Manager – Food Cultures and Enzymes, Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee. âThere has been a lot of attention around studies that deepen our knowledge of bacteria living in our gut. This is because we know that 97% of the bacteria in the human body reside in our gut, and the diversity and population of certain types of bacteria can confer several health benefits.
John Quilter, Global Portfolio Vice President for Proactive Health, Kerry, Beloit, Wisconsin, said: âThere is an ever-growing understanding of the gut-brain axis and the relationship between digestive health and areas like mental well-being, mood and cognitive health. What’s also exciting is that it is affecting consumers. So there has been a major shift in the perception of gut health from something that affects a particular area of ââthe body to something that affects everything. “
Kerry recently released the results of a survey of more than 13,000 consumers in 16 countries. Digestive health ranked third on the list of reasons to buy healthy lifestyle products, up from fourth in 2019. Forty-seven percent knew about probiotics or cultures, more than the 42% who were aware in 2019 .
âAnother interesting finding is that the foods and beverages commonly eaten for breakfast are most closely associated with digestive health,â Quilter said. âFor example, 4 out of 10 people around the world said they would be interested in purchasing yoghurts that contain ingredients with beneficial effects on digestive health. Many other categories were also strongly associated with digestive health, including fruit and vegetable juices, dairy drinks, and breakfast cereal / granola.
Billions of bacteria reside in the gastrointestinal system. This microbial community – the microbiome – has distinct physicochemical properties that help regulate bodily functions. Healthy gut bacteria are often supplemented by the consumption of probiotics. They are living microorganisms, most often lactic acid bacteria, which, when consumed in the right amount, help create a better balanced microbiome.
Probiotics, prebiotics and dietary fiber are the main ingredients that product developers include in formulations for better digestion. Prebiotics are the fuel that allows probiotics to proliferate and have a positive impact on the body. Prebiotics are often equated with dietary fiber, but only a subset of dietary fiber qualifies as prebiotics. In addition, according to the broad scientific definition of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), prebiotics do not need to be forms of dietary fiber.
Chr. Hansen scientists focus on how various bacteria affect the microbiome at various stages of life. Other research includes growing probiotic strains under varying conditions to see how well they respond to prebiotics for growth.
âIn our labs, we use cutting edge technology that can simulate the journey of bacteria through the human body,â Ms. Henrickson said. âIt does this by mimicking the movements and environment of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. We can reproduce this system for any stage of life. Our experiments use test samples from volunteers that allow us to understand how the composition of the microbiome changes under different conditions. This research allows our scientists to better understand gut health and the impact of various bacterial strains on our gut flora at different stages of life.
Through its consumer analytics platform Outside Voice, ADM, Chicago, has identified gut health specifically related to the gut microbiome as one of five consumer trends to emerge in 2021. A quarter of global consumers suffer from issues digestive health, and half said it had serious consequences on their overall health, ADM found.
Postbiotics are an emerging category of ingredients for digestive health. They eliminate the need to add probiotics by being the healthy metabolites that the microbiome produces, the compounds that have the real health benefit. This includes a range of enzymes, peptides, organic acids, fatty acids and more.
âPostbiotics are the new kids in the neighborhood,â said Justin Green, director of scientific affairs, Cargill Health Technologies, Minneapolis. âHowever, while consumer awareness is still in its infancy, this emerging health ingredient has a lot to offer to the immune and gut health space. Postbiotics offer increased stability and consistency over more familiar probiotics.
About 15 years ago, Cargill developed a dried yeast ferment with a composition of metabolites and compounds, not a specific vitamin, molecule or extract. Today, it falls within the scope of ISAPP’s consensus definition of postbiotic.
“This is a unique microbiome modulating ingredient that has been clinically proven to support immune and digestive health,” Green said. âThis postbiotic is a whole food ferment made through a natural, proprietary process that creates a unique metabolite imprint that supports a healthy gut microbiome.
âThe new ingredient was inspired by a story of real-life health discovery. Employees at our founding company’s fermentation plant took less sick leave than their office colleagues.
To understand why, the company commissioned pilot studies and learned that its fermented food product supports the immune health of plant workers exposed to the product. The company has embarked on years of clinical research to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of this postbiotic ingredient for humans.
Comet Bio, based in Schaumburg, Ill., Has a story to tell with its prebiotic arabinoxylan fiber, made from recycled wheat straw.
âWe recycle harvest leftovers into healthy, sustainable ingredients,â said Hannah Ackermann, Head of Corporate Communications. âOur proprietary technology allows us to recover and purify lost nutrients from waste products from the food system for supplements, foods and beverages.
âArabinoxylan has clinically proven prebiotic and immune benefits. Another significant benefit is its potency, allowing for a front-of-the-package prebiotic claim with only half the level of inclusion of other prebiotics. Its lower level of inclusion also allows manufacturers to incorporate it into their products without significant reformulation and for better value.
Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Ill., Offers a range of prebiotics. Its short chain fructooligosaccharide (scFOS) is a soluble prebiotic fiber derived from sucrose.
âIt is derived from sugar cane using a proprietary bio-fermentation process and non-GMO ingredients,â said Tatiana Rusev, global senior director of nutrition at Ingredion. âThe result is a 95% pure form of scFOS. There are over 20 years of research and over 200 scientific publications that support its ability to promote human health in several key areas. These benefits are easily achieved by including even very small amounts, providing a cost effective way to add user-friendly claims on the label, such as a mild prebiotic, promotes digestive function and increases levels of good bacteria.
The company’s galactooligosaccharide prebiotic is a soluble fiber synthesized from food grade lactose. It is sold as a syrup with a minimum GOS content of 57% and is stable under conditions of high temperature and low pH. Applications include infant formulas, dairy products, cereals, beverages and food supplements.
Beneo, Parsippany, NJ has long focused on digestive health and the benefits of prebiotic chicory root fiber – inulin and oligofructose – to help consumers adopt healthier diets and lifestyles. Non-GMO fibers are obtained from chicory root via gentle hot water extraction.
“The added benefits of being soluble and having a pleasant, natural taste allow inulin and oligofructose to be easily incorporated into a wide range of food products – from yogurt to breakfast cereals and more. by salty products – while maintaining or even improving taste and texture, âsaid Kyle Krause, product manager, functional fiber and carbohydrates at Beneo. âIn cereal bars, for example, our chicory root fiber helps reduce calories by acting as a binder. “
Insoluble fiber also contributes to digestive health by adding bulk to the stool, which in turn speeds up transit through the lower intestines and out of the body, helping to prevent or relieve constipation. The most common insoluble fiber food ingredients are lignin, cellulose and some hemicelluloses. Vegetables and grains are particularly high in insoluble fiber, the largest amounts being wheat and corn.