Immune system boosters that pack a punch

Dietary fibre plays an important role in promoting a biodiverse intestinal microbiome, which, in turn, helps to support the immune system

Here, Jutta Schock, Head of Marketing at GoodMills Innovation, discusses how food producers can realise products that convince with both nutritional value and delicious taste, helping consumers to “pack a punch” and boost their inner defences in these challenging times.

Not surprisingly, the global pandemic has accelerated consumer desire for foods and drinks that enhance the immune system. According to Mintel, more than a third of UK respondents (37%) say that the virus outbreak has encouraged them to add more nutrients that support the immune system to their diet.1

Globally, fortified/functional food sales topped €227 billion, whereas naturally healthy food sales totalled €220 billion in February 2020.2

Consuming high-quality nutritious foods and beverages was second only to enjoying tasty foods as a key criterion for consumers saying they have “eaten well.”3 It is clear that, since the outbreak of COVID-19, a healthy immune system has taken on a whole new meaning. More people than ever want to fundamentally strengthen their immune system and, for many, this starts with nutrition.

Dietary fibre in the spotlight

When it comes to boosting immunity, dietary fibre should not be underestimated. More is being learned all the time about both how a balanced gut microbiota helps to promote a strong immune system and the role that dietary fibre plays in this.

The intestinal microbiome comprises trillions of bacteria. In close contact with the intestinal barrier, it helps the body to digest food and absorb nutrients, protects against pathogens and supports the immune system. The more diverse the composition of the microbiome the better.

Intestinal bacteria prefer a varied, high-fibre diet; a balanced mixture of fruit, vegetables and whole grain products is ideal. However, many consumers find it difficult to implement these nutritional recommendations in their everyday lives.

Best of both worlds: nutritional value and indulgence

To make things easier for consumers, functional ingredients provider GoodMills Innovation has been working to develop solutions that help food and beverage manufacturers to create products that combine fibre richness with enjoyment.

With careful composition being a driver for success, its novel range of fibre compounds promote a biodiverse microbiome. The company uses an extensive range of natural ingredients to produce tailor-made solutions for innovative and contemporary products in the immune health segment.

Particularly with regard to health-related claims, different combinations of ingredients can yield different results. For instance, some ingredients convince with their fibre content, whereas others contain high levels of zinc or secondary plant substances. Intelligent formulation can create complementary concepts based on multiple individual benefits.

GoodMills Innovation’s fibre solution, GOOD Fibres 10+1 for a biodiverse microbiome, for example, combines various dietary fibres based on fruit, cereals and vegetables to encourage the development of a healthy and balanced microbiome in consumers.

For example, it contains apple and citrus fibres, Tartary buckwheat, micronised bran of wheat, rye and oat, yellow peas and Jerusalem artichokes.

The concentrate can be used in a wide variety of baked goods, including breads, rolls, burger buns, sandwich toast, subs, croissants and Danish pastries, all of which benefit from added health value and maximum enjoyment.

The concentrate’s composition allows two health claims in line with the EU Health Claims Regulation: one with regard to the immune system and the other for intestinal health.

Superfood wheat germ: boosting cell recycling

Another aspect of maintaining a healthy immune system — as well as decelerated ageing — is autophagy, the self-cleaning process that takes place inside the body’s cells. During this continuous process, old and superfluous cell components as well as harmful invaders such as viruses are broken down and recycled.

As these disassembled components can subsequently be used to build new structures, autophagy provides a highly energy efficient mechanism for the production and renewal of cells.

A range of scientific studies have concluded that spermidine, a dietary polyamine, has a positive effect on autophagy.4 Spermidine occurs naturally in the body and it is known that regular fasting intervals and intensive sport stimulate its production.

However, we can also add spermidine to the diet, thus helping to promote the body’s self-cleaning process. Spermidine-rich foods can be of particular benefit to less active health-conscious consumers who find it hard to fit regular activity into their everyday lives and would rather not fast.

Wheat germ is the best natural food source of spermidine and the team at GoodMills Innovation has used this ingredient for its SpermidinEVO concentrate. Compared with conventional wheat germ, SpermidinEVO has up to six times the spermidine content and is characterised by a particularly high degree of purity.

Less than two grams of it provides the recommended daily intake of one milligram of spermidine. The concentrate is also highly versatile and can be incorporated into a wide range of food and beverage product innovations and reformulations, ranging from baked goods, bars, cookies and pasta to liquid applications such as dairy drinks and shakes.

SpermidinEVO’s base — wheat germ — is also known to provide vitamins such as folic acid, which plays an important role in immune defence, as well as vitamin E, a cell-protective nutrient that is considered to be a classic antiageing ingredient. If dosed in sufficient amounts, health-related claims such as folic acid for immune system support and vitamin E for cell protection are possible.

Maintaining a biodiverse microbiome is also important when it comes to autophagy. Specific bacteria in the intestinal microbiome produce spermidine. Consequently, a biodiverse and healthy microbiome is an important basis for this process. As dietary fibre contributes to healthy intestinal flora, it therefore supports spermidine production from within.

Summary

Dietary fibres and polyamines such as spermidine play an important role when it comes to a healthy immune system. As consumers seek to boost their inner defences in these challenging times, such ingredients offer producers versatile ways to capitalise on the growing demand for immune supporting foods and drinks.

At GoodMills Innovation, our core competence is to provide customers with solutions that are easy to implement in practice and that produce successful products. Therefore, it’s important for us to always have our finger on the pulse of both current food trends and new research findings.

Consumers and their demands are always at the centre of our activities. Our goal is to facilitate a health-promoting diet, and we believe that the best way to achieve this is to offer good taste. Combining the best of both worlds is one of our missions.

References

  1. www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/pass-the-avocado-on-toast-a-quarter-of-young-millennials-say-covid-19-has-made-a-vegan-diet-more-appealing.
  2. www.euromonitor.com/fortified-functional-packaged-food-in-the-us/report.
  3. www.fmi.org/docs/default-source/webinars/trends-a-look-at-today%27s-grocery-shopper-slides-pdf.pdf.
  4. F. Madeo, et al., “Spermidine in Health and Disease,” Science 359, 410 (2018): 10.1126/science.aan2788.

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