Although consumers have long sought immune support from supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, echinacea, elderberry and beta-glucans, probiotics are fast becoming one of the most popular choices. And it’s no surprise why: with over 70% of the immune system residing in the digestive tract, our gut is a first line of defense against potentially harmful pathogens. In addition, probiotics are one of the most studied dietary ingredients shown to support daily immune health. More clinical trials have been conducted on probiotics for upper respiratory health than any other dietary ingredient to date,1 demonstrating their potential effectiveness in support of immune health in comparison to other supplements.
Recent studies indicate probiotics are associated with a reduction in the incidence and duration of respiratory tract infections, number of antibiotic courses and days absent from work.2,3 In the U.S. alone, the study specifically found that sick days decreased by 3.58 to 4.2 million and antibiotic prescription use decreased by 1.39 to 2.16 million, due to probiotic use.4
Immunity for the 21st century consumer
But not all probiotics are created equal. When sourcing strains, there are several attributes to consider when gauging a probiotic’s quality: high performance, stability and functionality. Manufacturers should also consider sourcing probiotic strains that utilise efficient fermentation and concentration drying processes, as well as stability technology, both of which help guarantee consumers receive probiotics in their active, optimal form. Collaborating with suppliers that demonstrate clinical efficacy, safety and product quality are key to create a robust probiotic supplement.
A common misconception about probiotics is that 'one size fits all,' however that’s not the case. When incorporating strains into a formulation, manufacturers and brand owners should also consider consumers’ unique lifestyle needs, including how immune function differs depending on age. As an example, DuPont’s HOWARU® Protect line is comprised of five different strains tailored to support the health of specific groups including soon-to-be-mothers, infants, school-age children, athletes, adults and seniors.
For example, manufacturers looking to create a children’s probiotic can incorporate HOWARU® Protect Kids into their product. With a multi-strain combination of 5B CFU Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® and 5B CFU Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07™, it’s tailored specifically to children’s immune needs. As a result, it’s been clinically demonstrated that children taking the strain were associated with fewer upper respiratory-type symptoms and fewer missed school days than their peer group.
In the case for the adult probiotic which contains a unique proprietary probiotic formulation, the strain is shown to boost healthy respiratory function in adults by helping to prime the immune system before infection. In a clinical study, those who took the strain for 150 days saw a 27% reduction of risk for upper respiratory tract illness episodes. Participants also saw a seven-month delay in onset of upper respiratory tract infection episodes, suggesting this probiotic strain may help active adults stay healthy, longer.
A variety of application options
While some consumers prefer their probiotics in a supplement, others favor alternative options, so it’s essential to provide a variety of delivery formats. In addition to traditional hard and soft capsules, manufacturers can also consider creating probiotic-fortified food and beverages. Consumers then have the flexibility to choose which application works best for their lifestyle so they can easily adhere to a probiotic regimen.
Since probiotics can be difficult to package, ship and store, especially in food or beverage form, manufacturers should conduct a shelf life study on full formulations to ensure that probiotics survive through to the expiration date. To do so, they can consider reducing the amount of water activity within the product, keeping products in a cool environment and understanding how other ingredients in the formulation may interact and disrupt the viability of the probiotic.
In the midst of this current pandemic, consumers are searching for supportive immune supplements to help keep their family healthy. Manufacturers can take this opportunity to reassess their current products or create new options that provide a personalised experience for each individual consumer. Providing high-quality, shelf-stable, tailored immune supplements allows them to stand out from other immune-boosting dietary supplements on the shelf.
- According to PubMed.gov search results for the number of upper respiratory illness clinical trials for each ingredient, March 2020
- Hao Q et al. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015;2:CD006895.
- King S et al. Effectiveness of probiotics on the duration of illness in healthy children and adults who develop common acute respiratory infectious conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014;112:41-54.
- Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, et al. Probiotics reduce health care cost and societal impact of flu-like respiratory tract infections in the USA: An economic modeling study. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2019;10:980.