Probiotics go beyond digestion

Forget consulting the oracle to learn what’s next for probiotics, the science says it all, reports Mike Bush VP of Business Development, Ganeden, Inc.

Today, 86% of consumers recognise the term 'probiotics' and associate it with good health. Consumers buy supplements, foods and drinks boosted with these friendly bacteria to the tune of more than $20 billion each year.

For years, probiotics were associated with one thing: digestion. However, more recently, various clinical trials have demonstrated other benefits of probiotics that extend beyond gut health. Research indicates that in addition to a well-oiled digestive system, probiotics may benefit protein absorption, immune system modulation and inflammation, and may even play a pivotal role in the health of the ageing population.

As the awareness of probiotics increases, consumer demand is swelling. The result is that probiotics are no longer confined to dairy products and capsule- based supplements. Innovations in temperature-stable strains allow probiotics to exist in a wide variety of products. Leading this pack of resilient probiotics is Ganeden’s GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086).

The composition of GanedenBC30 differentiates itself from other probiotics by its ability to survive manufacturing processes, its lengthy shelf-life, stomach acids and intestinal bile. This allows GanedenBC30 to be incorporated into a variety of foods, ranging from frozen yoghurt and baked goods to hot cereals and confections — even tea and coffee.

The benefits of GanedenBC30 stem from its naturally occurring layer of organic material that acts to protect the genetic core of the bacteria. Other probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are unable to form this protective layer, making them more vulnerable to manufacturing conditions. With consumer awareness of probiotics at an all time high, the market is ripe for novel products to hit the market. Here, we look at recent science pointing the way to the next generation of probiotic potential and products.

Sports nutrition: active adults

Elite athletes, adults on the go and individuals on special diets all want convenient foods and beverages fuelled with protein. New research on probiotics regarding protein absorption could be good news for this fast growing sports nutrition to satisfy this 'active adult' market. In a randomised double-blind crossover clinical trial, GanedenBC30 increased the absorption of several key amino acids.

In just 2 weeks, combining one billion colony forming units (CFUs) of GanedenBC30 with one 25g serving of protein per day, it increased the absorption of 23 essential amino acids. These consisted of leucine, which increased by 23%, isoleucine (20%), valine (7%), glutamine (116%), ornithine (100%), tryptophan (100%) and citrulline (128%).

'Improved protein utilisation might benefit people supplementing their diets with protein, such as athletes trying to increase their pre-workout effect on muscle protein synthesis, or people trying to balance the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with ageing,' said Dr Ralf Jäger, President of Increnovo LLC. He added: 'Previously considered to be inferior protein sources that are naturally lower in leucine, such as soy or rice, might specifically benefit from GanedenBC30, giving athletes with allergies against lactose or who are cautious about cholesterol a valuable alternative to whey protein.'

These results may be of particular interest to food manufacturers that provide products for professional and amateur athletes and the growing market of adults who use meal replacement products. One example of such a product is Gaspari Nutrition's Myofusion Probiotic formula that contains GanedenBC30. 'We are pleased to see that the benefits of probiotics for the sports nutrition community are now being validated and elucidated publicly with this new study,' said Dan Pierce, Vice President of Brand Strategy and Product Development for Gaspari Nutrition.

In addition to sports nutrition, the field for protein products enhanced with GanedenBC30 is constantly expanding. For instance, sales of Greek yoghurt now account for 21% of total yoghurt sales and this inclusion of a higher protein formula has taken over the yoghurt category. Although, most Greek yoghurt does not contain probiotics, this combination has the potential to be a huge market segment.

Immunity

Colds and flu are the most common illnesses among humans. They have significant health and economic consequences, especially among young children, the elderly and people with underlying or chronic conditions. Every year, an average of 5–20% of people in the US contract flu. From this, more than 200,000 people are hospitalised with flu-related complications and approximately 36,000 people die from the flu.

It is also estimated that 1 billion colds occur annually in the US. It is thought that a staggering 70% of the immune system is in the digestive tract, a statistic that is increasingly cited in medical and mainstream media. The immune cells in the digestive tract share their space with a community of more than 400 species of naturally occurring bacteria — some helpful, others harmful.

Keeping a healthy level of these 'good' bacteria, or probiotics, is key to maintaining your digestive and immune health. Probiotics can help to support the immune system by keeping the levels of the good versus bad bacteria in balance, thus creating an optimal environment for immune system function.

Mounting research demonstrates that GanedenBC30 may support the body’s immune system in a variety of ways. GanedenBC30 increased the body's immune response to viruses that cause common viral respiratory tract infections, such as colds and flu. Study data showed significant increases in the T-cell production of TNF-alpha, a key immune marker, versus control upon exposure to adenovirus and influenza A in healthy adults who consumed GanedenBC30 for 30 days.1

Although many health professionals believe that probiotics can help people with specific health conditions, there has been controversy surrounding the benefits of probiotics in healthy people. This research supports the idea that probiotics can indeed benefit those who are healthy. 'The study helps to support the long suspected belief about the beneficial effects of GanedenBC30 on the immune system and adds to the emerging body of evidence that probiotics can benefit healthy people as well as those with specific health issues,' said Mira Baron, study author.

Additional research shows that loss of intestinal flora is severely detrimental to the recombination of CD4 cells. In immune-compromised subjects, GanedenBC30 was shown to improve the function of the gut mucosal immune system.2 Another study demonstrated the ability of GanedenBC30 to significantly increase T-cell production of TNF-alpha after ex vivo exposure to a strain of adenovirus (AdenoVI) or influenza A (H3N2 Texas strain [FluTex]).3

'The results of this research are interesting and set the stage for the continued study of the effects of the GanedenBC30 strain of probiotics on the immune system,' said Dr Justin Sonnenburg, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. 'This research hints that healthy adults may be able to boost their immune system to potentially ward off infections such as colds or flu.'

Ageing populations

Each day in the US, 10 thousand people turn 65 years of age. Currently, 13% of Americans are aged 65 years old or above. By 2030, that number is thought to rise to approximately 18%. This rapidly growing demographic comes with its own set of health challenges. Given its burgeoning numbers, it is no surprise that researchers around the globe are examining the role of gut health in this population, and how probiotics might be of benefit.

Dr Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbial Sciences and Head of FMSU Research Group at the University of Reading (UK), is currently studying the gut health of seniors. 'As we get older our levels of positive gut bacteria are known to decrease. This makes us more susceptible to certain disorders like gastroenteritis. The use of probiotics attempts to reverse this trend and boost the positive bugs. We are using GanedenBC30 in this regard right now,' Dr Gibson said.

Dr Gibson also noted that alongside the decrease in healthy positive bacteria, there is an increase in low-grade gut inflammation. This effect appears to be reduced by probiotics. Michael Bush, Vice President of Business Development for Ganeden is happy to see research with probiotics aimed at this expanding sector of the population. 'The science is telling us that there are myriad benefits that seniors could gain from probiotics. We’re excited because this is a population that favours the alternative delivery systems that GanedenBC30 can deliver.'

Conclusion

As the ageing population quickly balloons to record numbers, its health needs will need to be addressed. Considering that 61% buy over-the-counter medications and that their spending power is expected to reach $4.6 trillion by 2015, probiotics deserve some attention.

References

1. M. Baron, Postgraduate Medicine 121(2), 114–118 (2009).

2. M. Selbovitz, Retrovirology 9(1), 22 (2012).

3. M. Kimmel, Meth. Find. Exp. Clin. Pharmacol. 32(2), 129–132 (2010).

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