Modern Lifestyles and Gut Microbiota
A thought piece in Nature Reviews Immunology suggests changes to the gut’s microbial diversity, because of modern lifestyles, may be responsible for a rise in chronic diseases such as asthma, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. Dr Martin Blaser comments the losses of bacterial species occur in early life, ‘which results in increased disease’. He says we must ‘refocus our efforts to understand and reverse the underlying circumstances responsible for our disappearing microbiota’. Dr Blaser theorises three factors have caused the ‘loss of microbial richness’ in populations, including caesarean sections, clean drinking water, and the use of infant formula. His concern for formula centres on its composition—the lack of micronutrients, such as oligosaccharides, means the survival of inherited and beneficial microbiota is not fostered. These concerns should be of interest to infant formula manufacturers and more research is required in this area. This is pertinent as a global survey by Ingredient Communications finds consumers think food companies bear the responsibility for public health, with 68 percent of consumers in Asia agreeing. The survey also revealed levels of trust in the food industry are relatively low compared with other sources of information about health and nutrition.
Botanicals and Diabetes
Obesity and diabetes concerns are set to spur big growth in APAC’s beta-glucan market. Found in oats and barley, beta-glucan is a soluble fibre with a cholesterol lowering effect. High cholesterol levels, rising obesity, and diabetes have increased the use of beta-glucan in nutraceuticals and functional foods and the APAC market is expected to increase from $65.2 million to $109.54 million by 2022—a CAGR of 9.1 percent. A trial from Japan has shown how barley high in beta-glucan can reduce visceral fat, as well as body weight, BMI and waist circumference, and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) says products containing oats—but not barley—should be permitted to make higher level health claims for blood cholesterol benefits. FSANZ points to a body of evidence which ‘gives a high degree of certainty’ for the relationship between the consumption of oats and decreased total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. There are plenty of other ingredients set to make a splash on the APAC market to battle diabetes, including fenugreek, psyllium and ginger. With a global increase in the prevalence of obesity, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, rising healthcare costs mean finding sustainable solutions for the prevention of diabetes is becoming a main priority for governments around the world, and the nutraceutical industry can step in as global solution providers. Bruno Kistner, policy director at Food Industry Asia, will be speaking on the Vitafoods Asia Life Stages Theatre on the subject, you can hear him introduce the topic on this podcast.
Energy drinks seem a staple for the average university student, myself included when I was studying, and their health risks are well-documented. There’s now a new risk: a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found regular consumption of highly caffeinated energy drinks may increase a person’s risk of cocaine use, nonmedical use of prescription stimulants, and alcohol use disorder (AUD). The study observed ‘these findings suggest energy drink consumption may be a novel catalyst for AUD and certain types of subsequent substance use.’ The authors also pointed out these outcomes ‘appear to be specific to energy drink consumption and not other forms of caffeine’. There are no caffeine health claim approvals for energy drinks in Europe and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued several scientific opinions on ingredients commonly used. Most recently, it ruled acute caffeine intakes of around 200 mg per day do not give rise to safety concerns but Members of European Parliament (MEPs) have voted to veto four caffeine health claims for energy drinks, raising concerns a 250 ml energy drink can contain up to 80 mg of caffeine.