The health benefits of fibre as a prebiotic are well documented, with the macronutrient implicated in improved gastrointestinal health, characterised by lowered colorectal cancer risk as well as relief from irritable bowel disease (IBD).
Despite its advantages, convincing consumers to eat more fibre is tricky as noticeable changes to health and well-being often involve very large adjustments to diet and/or lifestyle.
The task is made all the more difficult as fermentable fibres can exacerbate gas and bloating. Added to its rather functional image, fibre could be a tough sell to consumers, who have a myriad gut-friendly food options.
Founded in 2019, Myota Health is a UK-based startup that looks to boost fibre consumption by offering sets of fibre blends that can easily be dissolved into food and hot or cold drinks.
It means the blends can be easily added to coffee, tea, or smoothies, stirred into yoghurt, or sprinkled on to morning muesli. Its flavourless nature means it won’t get in the way of a food’s taste or texture.
Its founders, Dr Thomas Gurry and Kat Stennett, are making fibre blends that take gut microbiome variability into account.
Short-chain fatty acid production varies in individuals
“Our own research shows that different people produce different quantities of SCFAs from the same fibre,” they say.
“These findings are at the core of our fibre blends. We've tested hundreds of different fibres in-house to find blends that all kinds of gut microbiomes can ferment.”
The company’s Gut Booster blend, which aims to restore gut balance and improve digestion while reducing bloating, wind, and constipation, contains a greater proportion of longer-chain fibres that are slowly fermented in the colon.
These fibres are gentler on the gut, relieve gas and bloating, and support the health of gut bacteria.
Its Immune Booster blend contains prebiotic fibres such as resistant starch and fructo-oligosaccharides proven to aid the production of butyrate – a potent anti-inflammatory substance.
The co-founders go on to explain how the creation of Myota Health was a “wonderful opportunity to exploit the power of the microbiome in a lightweight regulatory manner”.
This was achieved via dietary compounds rather than drugs, moving the needle in a meaningful way on chronic disease treatment and prevention.
The importance of fibre health claims
“These blends integrate well into foods, so they form a critical building block for functional foods with significant health benefits,” they add.
“In order to promote these health benefits, it is necessary to pursue health claims through rigorous clinical trials.
“Our approach as a company has been to (i) design these blends with the foundational microbiome science in mind and (ii) test their clinical efficacy in clinical trials with the ultimate aim of obtaining a functional ingredient that carries powerful health claims.”
Gurry’s research background explains the reasoning behind this approach, having obtained a PhD in computational and systems biology from MIT. He also did postdoctoral research at the MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics.
It was here that he found large differences between people’s ability to break down specific fibres into SCFAs, resulting in fibre blends that worked across different microbiome compositions and opened new possibilities for impact on chronic disease through precision nutrition.
The true benefit to the food industry, the co-founders add, is for the resulting food product to carry health claims that come from Myota’s fibre blends.
There are many potential applications, with Gurry and Stennett focusing on baked products, fibre bars, and ready-to-drink beverages. They are in talks with potential partners.
Food tech startups that are working with fibre
Myota Health joins a plethora of food tech startups creating innovative extraction technologies, supplements, and functional foods with high fibre content.
Some focus on extracting the best fibre out of novel fibre sources, such as seaweed, carrot pulp, or cassava starch, an approach taken by UK’s Oceanium and Brazil’s FiberVita.
Others have optimised the dietary fibre ingredient as a sugar replacement. Companies in this space include UK-based The Supplant Company, Israel’s Resugar Synergy, and Netherlands-based Anderson Advanced Ingredients.