Prebiotics: The answer to successful weight management

The latest research and new product developments featuring prebiotics suggest that a diet containing these soluble fibres is important for weight management, reports Frederic Narbel, Managing Director, OptiBiotix

Consumers are becoming more aware of the role of the gut microbiome in overall health and well-being, including the benefits of probiotics for better digestion and even cardiovascular health. However, with emerging research now proving the equally beneficial power of prebiotics, is it time we shifted the limelight to these non-digestible carbohydrates and discover their more significant influence in successful weight loss?

The obesity pandemic continues to increase, with the World Health Organization reporting that global obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. Additionally, according to the International Association for the Study of Obesity, there are approximately 1 billion overweight adults in the world today, with 475 million that are obese.

Consumers are aware of the serious health risks linked with being overweight or obese, with many making changes to their diet or physical fitness routines. In addition, dietary supplements targeting weight loss are becoming a popular option for consumers looking to improve their well-being.

This trend is increasing the demand for products featuring functional ingredients such as probiotics and prebiotics. Although probiotics are very much established in the marketplace and available in a broad variety of formulations, more emerging research about prebiotics is showing the key role they play in health and well-being. These non-digestible carbohydrates (such as soluble fibres) are not digested by humans but act as microbial food that help to sustain a healthy and diverse microbiome.

Studies are establishing the link between gut bacteria and weight loss facilitation. The nature of the bacteria in the gut determines how well or poorly food is absorbed into the body. According to a study published by The Journal of Functional Foods, prebiotic fibres can help to absorb intestinal fat and may be used as an effective way of bringing about weight loss.

It has been suggested that prebiotic intake may also enhance the bioavailability of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and possibly iron. Additionally, an animal model published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that prebiotic foods promote a feeling of fullness, prevent obesity and spur weight loss. Affecting hormone levels that relate to appetite regulation, animals given prebiotics produced less ghrelin, which is the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger.

Despite the fact prebiotics are largely unknown to consumers or are often confused with probiotics, the global prebiotics market is expected to reach US$7.11 billion by 2022, according to Euromonitor International. Data such as this is leading to the development of next-generation science-based products that aid with the health issue of obesity.

According to Mintel, from 2013 to 2018, a total of 3805 products boasting a “prebiotic” claim were launched globally. Out of these, 64.5% of products were new products or varieties introduced in to the market.

A world leader in the microbiome field, OptiBiotix Health is formulating products to modulate the human microbiome for a wide range of health benefits. Not only this, but the life sciences company has done a number of human studies on its products to support the role of the microbiome, prebiotics and probiotics in digestive health, cardiovascular health, weight management and cognitive function.

An example includes its award-winning weight management ingredient, SlimBiome. The ingredient modulates the activity of the human microbiome with a patented matrix of natural ingredients including prebiotics, identified and developed by leading specialists in metabolism and nutrition to lower food cravings while helping to burn calories and reduce body weight.

OptiBiotix recently completed a human study on SlimBiome, which demonstrated that human volunteers taking it had statistically significant reductions in hunger and food cravings leading to weight loss and improved mood. These effects appeared to be mediated by changes in gut bacteria, notably the relative abundance of Christensenellaceae, Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria — a range of bacteria within the gut microbiome associated with weight loss.

The four-week human intervention study was done by leading scientists in the microbiome field and investigated the effect of SlimBiome, as the functional ingredient in the GoFigure diet plan, on weight loss, satiety, satiation, mood and gut microbiome composition in a human intervention study.

During the study, 12 otherwise healthy, overweight and obese females (18–65 years, BMI 25–35 kg/m2) were asked to consume 9 g of SlimBiome daily delivered through the GoFigure diet plan. After 4 weeks, statistically significant reductions were observed in weight, BMI, fat mass, hip circumference, percentage body fat, fat mass and systolic blood pressure.

Not only that, but cravings for savoury foods were substantially reduced, accompanied by a measurable improvement in mood.

The company has also successfully launched SlimBiome in a CE-marked medical device SlimBiome Medical: a supplement available in boxes of 30 single dose sachets offering a hunger-free weight management solution designed for use as part of a calorie-restricted diet, to reduce hunger and help users achieve sustainable weight loss.

SlimBiome Medical utilises the functional ingredient SlimBiome to actively help individuals reduce their food intake and food cravings and support a healthy gut. OptiBiotix commercially launched the weight management solution to the European market at Vitafoods 2019.

Functional foods containing prebiotics are the next frontier in nutrition and manufacturers will continue to develop precision engineered products that modify specific elements of the microbiome to provide a plausible dietary intervention in the overweight and obese population.

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