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Microbiome science is ‘paving the way’ for the foods of tomorrow

Article-Microbiome science is ‘paving the way’ for the foods of tomorrow

© iStock/aprott Microbiome science is ‘paving the way’ for the foods of tomorrow
The impact of microbiome-based therapeutics continues to gather momentum in 2024, with opportunities for nutrition and food products that support mental and metabolic health, immunity, and healthy ageing.

Next-gen probiotics, live biotherapeutics, and postbiotics are in a commanding position, paving the way for a wave of nutritionally superior products and the foods of tomorrow, according to a report from Seventure Partners, a venture capital investor with a focus on the human microbiome.

Its CEO and managing partner, Isabelle de Cremoux, points to the recent novel food designation and Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status for heat-pasteurised Akkermansia and CarbioAxos, a prebiotic soluble fibre, as evidence of efforts to demonstrate safety and efficacy in this space.

“This means that products destined to be used for supporting health should have adequate evidence demonstrating significant functionality so that consumers can make informed choices and avoid the products that fail to deliver benefit,” she said.

“To this end, greater effort[s] from EFSA [the European Food Safety Authority] and FDA [the US Food and Drug Administration] are required to assist developers of health-promoting products to gain the market credibility deserved.”

First official approval of an oral microbiome product in 2023

Last year can be looked back on as a pivotal one for microbiome research and development, with the first official approval of an oral microbiome product that prevents the recurrence of Clostridioides difficile infection.

Vowst, a faecal microbiota product, was the result of a partnership between Seres and Nestlé Health Science; it now represents a standardised therapy that has received the FDA green light.

The milestones achieved have had a knock-on effect on the food and nutrition space, such as Unilever’s recent partnering with Holobiome’s gut microbiome experts to identify food and drink ingredients that could boost mental wellbeing.

Spanish biotech company AB-Biotics continues to maintain a significant interest in fermented foods and microbiome health, which it says represents a significant opportunity for the food and beverage industry.

Indeed, the report goes on to reference the breakthroughs of GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, which de Cremoux believes offer opportunity for foods and microbiome products that naturally induce systems in the brain that control appetite.

Disease prevention can be achieved via natural foods induce hormones

“Foods and microbiome products are likely to provide a safer route to appetite control and augment the action of drug GLP-1 and GLP-1R agonists and potentially address some of the reported adverse GI side effects,” she said.

“Perhaps also relevant to microbiome opportunities is the reported reduction risk in colorectal cancer in patients with T2D [type 2 diabetes] with/without obesity associated with GLP-1 receptor agonists.

“This provides insight into how exploiting natural foods and microbes which induce GLP-1, PYY, or other important hormones can provide benefit from other diseases.”

These observations were echoed by food conglomerate Unilever, which recently committed to achieving €1.5 billion ($1.61 billion) in annual sales from plant-based products that target the appetite-regulating GLP-1 pathway.

Lifestyle factors becoming more influential in prescription drug reliance

As individuals seek interventions that support health and longevity, de Cremoux highlights the increasing demand for products that prevent disease.

The report goes on to identify the ageing population, Western lifestyles, drug exposures, and the prevalence of processed high-sugar, high-fat foods in the Western diet as contributing to an overreliance on prescription drugs.

“Education is an important first step to enable individuals to adopt healthy lifestyle choices; however, this needs to be supported with novel foods and products that promote health and wellness without the adverse side effects of many current drugs,” concluded de Cremoux.

“There are a vast range of products, from foods to supplements, together with a diverse range of biotic products on the market that are not validated.

“This presents a significant opportunity for the microbiome field which has the potential to develop the next-generation products for the 21st-century consumer.”