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March Monthly Digest

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Catch up with our monthly Industry Digest, where we select the latest stand-out trends and research across the health and nutrition space, giving you greater insight into recent industry news and highlights.

CBD in the spotlight

While in Europe, a long wait for a successful CBD novel food authorisation appears more certain than ever, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK announced an extension until March 31 for companies to submit novel food applications, after receiving a considerable number of last-minute submissions. This adaption of criteria shows a supportive attitude towards CBD regulations and represents the rise of CBD products in Britain. The submissions of US-based firms Treehouse Biotech and Folium Biosciences’ novel foods applications to the UK are further evidence to suggest that the UK could be a strong contender in the cannabis edibles market.

That being said, leading botanical extracts company Indena became the first company in Italy to be authorised to produce CBD. Stefano Togni, corporate director for business development and licensing of Indena SpA said: “We are aiming at the international pharmaceutical markets. As an Italian company, we are proud to be able to make this totally Italian product of the highest quality available globally, an ingredient expected all over the world for its beneficial effects on a number of pathologies.”

Vitamin D and COVID-19

In February, we discussed the potential role of vitamin D supplements in supporting the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the UK. March saw continued debate about the importance of Vitamin D and its role in protecting against COVID-19. Many researchers and medical professionals are calling for vitamin D supplementation to be added to governments’ list of strategies in fighting the virus, and indeed US Representative Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) introduced a House resolution to call attention to the potential role vitamin D may play in decreasing the severity of COVID-19. Similarly, the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology released a statement in favour of vitamin D supplementation to treat older patients hospitalised by COVID-19.

Nevertheless, the statement, published in the Spanish Journal of Geriatrics and Gerontology, admitted that there was a ‘lack of evidence on specific doses of vitamin D to treat COVID-19 in older adults’. What’s more, two pre-print studies contest the significance of vitamin D in fighting COVID-19. The first of these studies is a mendelian randomization study that examines the relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 susceptibility and severity and concludes that individuals should not use vitamin D supplements to protect against COVID-19 outcomes.

The authors of the second study, however, withdrew their manuscript due to a necessary update of the number of countries in their study. Arguably, conclusive data remains to be found to reach an industry consensus on the impact of vitamin D on COVID-19 infections and mortality rate.

Prospering Probiotics

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a snowballing of interest in the immune health space; in particular, the probiotics dietary supplement market is expected to grow by 7.8% by 2026, according to Polaris Market Research. This month, growth in probiotic product development showed no signs of slowing down. The launch of new probiotic ice cubes by Singaporean ice-cube maker Uni-Tat Ice & Marketing Pte Ltd (Iceman) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) saw the entry of probiotic into the iced goods category, indicating a growing awareness among mainstream consumers of the importance of supplements for gut and immune health.

What’s more, in a move which represents a growing understanding of the link between gut health and sleep, Unilever announced its partnership with precision microbiome science company Microba Life Sciences for a year-long project investigating diet, lifestyle and sleep.

For further insights into recent trends in immune health, check out our monthly report for March - Digestive health: The star of lockdown.

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