Consumers are becoming more aware of their health than ever before, with a growing number looking to take proactive steps to improve their own wellbeing, seeking products that offer a convenient nutritional boost. With clinical and pre-clinical research increasingly showing the importance of gut health in a wide variety of conditions, from mental to physical and immune health, pre-, pro- and postbiotic solutions are important to consider when developing such products. Indeed, since 2019, demand in Europe for these types of products has increased significantly, with 58 percent of consumers saying in 2020 that they had purchased probiotic products in the last twelve months, according to the FMCG Gurus Probiotics Report 2021.
A focus on the physical
There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an impact on people’s physical health. In fact, research from FMCG Gurus shows that 6 in 10 consumers in Europe are trying to exercise more and that 33 percent of consumers have become more conscious about their weight during the pandemic. ADM's preliminary research suggests that there is a relationship between probiotics and oxidative stress (https://doi.org/10.3390/ antiox10020323).
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the link between excess weight and not only the risk of health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension but the adverse effect on their general health. Data suggests that around 340 million children aged 5 to 19 years old are overweight, and it is projected that this figure will continue to rise. There may be a role for probiotics to play; a clinical trial on ADM’s heat-treated form of HT-BPL1 demonstrated positive effects on measures of adiposity – specifically, waist circumference and body mass index (doi:10.1038/s41366-018-0220).
Prebiotics can also support consumers’ healthy diet and weight. Clinical studies suggest that the combination of ADM’s soluble fibre Fibersol® with a meal delivers the benefits of a dietary fibre including digestion and sugar reduction (Nutr Res.2015;35:393-400) (J FNS.2018;9:751-62).
Postbiotics can be used in harsh processing and non-traditional applications, meaning they can be administered to consumers with a new level of convenience in both dietary supplements, as well as traditional and novel food and beverage formats. However, restrictions apply, as permissibility is subject to regulations applicable to the specific food or beverage category and population.
Increasing interest in immunity
Since the emergence of COVID-19, consumers have been proactively seeking ways to boost their immunity, resulting in an increased demand for enhanced nutrition, including probiotics, according to FMCG Gurus data. With 33 percent of European consumers saying that supporting their immune health would be one of their main reasons for purchasing probiotics, the microbiome’s capacity to support the immune system has become increasingly relevant.
Research suggests there is an important role for the gut microbiome in building a strong intestinal barrier and helping to fight infections (doi.org/10.1038/s41422-020-0332-7). Health-conscious consumers are becoming increasingly aware of this, with probiotics and cultures listed in the top three ingredients associated with immune health in FMCG Gurus research. This increased awareness and knowledge of the microbiome’s role in immune health is driving demand for ingredients that support it.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus CNCM I-4036—a live probiotic strain identified by ADM—is one microorganism that has been subject to recent scientific evaluations. In a pre-clinical in vitro model, L. rhamnosus CNCM I-4036 inhibited the growth of enteropathogens by 10-50% when super natants (that were not neutralized) were used (Br J Nutr.2013;109(S2):S63-S69).
A growing link between the microbiome and mental health
In the UK, one in five adults experienced symptoms of depression in early 2021 , more than double the number before the pandemic. So, it is also no surprise that 51 percent of European consumers plan to improve their cognitive and mental health over the next year, per FMCG Gurus data. In response, dietary supplement manufacturers are researching the new microbiome ingredients that may be beneficial in supporting these emerging needs.
ADM is currently supporting a clinical study with the University of Oxford involving the use of an ADM multi-strain blend by individuals wishing to support their mental health. Depending on the outcome, this research could pave the way for further research into mood and mental health, and expand the reach of this new and exciting branch of microbiome understanding.
Developing next gen microbiome solutions
From health concerns such as weight management, mental health and mood, the gut microbiome is increasingly being shown to play an important role in a number of areas related to wellbeing. Manufacturers have an opportunity to collaborate with science-focused suppliers to apply this research to create products that resonate with consumers in the long term and meet their growing demand for science-backed solutions that cater to their holistic wellbeing.
Marta Tortajada Serra is Vice President, Science & Technology Health & Wellness at ADM.