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Do you ever wonder where these innovative probiotic products come from? Like, how they are created? How do the brands know that the beneficial bacteria work as they do?
Research and development executives and scientists convene at annual events to share newfound knowledge and discuss how the results of recently-concluded studies can provide product development opportunities. During such conferences, breakthrough research is discussed, as well as results of human trials that validate existing research.
Brands such as RenewLife, Innovia, Dannon, Activia and GanEden rely on these annual information-sharing gatherings to bolster their products and begin to develop new ones, or even to reformulate.
In June, the annual Probiota Americas conference was held in Vancouver. This festive event offered research details that collectively illustrate how provocative the nature of probiotics is in the realm of human health. For example, research biologist Dr. Ida Gisela Pantoja-Feliciano of the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center and lead of the Soldier Performance and Optimization Directorate (SPOD) discussed how the microbiotic structure is altered in soldiers who experience military stressors.
US Military personnel operate on a diet of Military Ration Meals Ready-to-eat (MRE), which tends to lack fresh fruits and vegetables. This diet is convenient and carefully formulated, but is still a limited and sterile one. In this study, Dr. Pantoja-Feliciano found that the MRE diet inhibited the growth of Lactobacillus in response to resistant starch supplementation. This “is of particular interest as this [genus] is known to enhance gut barrier integrity and immune function, which are both compromised by military-relevant stressors.” Her study expands the understanding of the connection between nutrition, the gut microbiome and soldiers’ (war fighters’) health and performance.
In any scientific congress, presentation of meta-analyses draws an interesting crowd. A meta-analysis is a “study of studies,” that aggregate and analyze combined conclusions. A presentation by Danone, a world leader in probiotic research and development, discussed a meta-analysis that collectively focused on probiotic impact metabolic diseases – obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A total of 105 articles representing 6,826 individuals were analyzed. The research team found that consumption of a variety of probiotics “resulted in minor but consistent improvements in several metabolic risk factors in subjects with metabolic diseases.” These include weight loss, liver enzyme reduction in those with NAFLD, and reduction inf HbA1c in those with diabetes.
Presentations of studies using specific probiotic and prebiotic ingredients on particular health conditions are highlights of the congress. For example, one presentation discussed how a kiwi-derived prebiotic ingredient (Livaux®) helps support growth of a beneficial fecal bacterium, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. This bacterium comprises approximately 5% of the intestinal bacteria. Low numbers of this species are associated with bowel conditions such as IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and chronic constipation. The presenter discussed a 2017 study that showed that individuals consuming the prebiotic had significantly increased mean daily bowel movements as well as exhibited greater concentrations of F. prausnitzii in functionally constipated subjects. According to the study authors, “The discovery that Livaux[®] supplementation increased F. prausnitzii abundance offers a potential strategy for improving gut microbiota composition, as F. prausnitzii is a butyrate producer and has also been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in many studies.”
Researchers also presented evidence on how probiotics can support heart health. For example, one presentation discussed how a combination of three strains of the species Lactobacillus plantarum (CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529) were shown to exert favorable characteristics of cholesterol metabolism. Specifically, according to study authors, “the strains showed a great production of bile salt hydrolase, especially when combined. Moreover, the strains assimilated cholesterol directly from the medium. Part of the cholesterol present in the medium was removed via binding onto the bacterial cellular surface. Finally, the three strains, especially CECT 7529, produce large quantities of propionic and butyric acids. Combined, these characteristics suggest that these strains could be excellent candidates for reducing high blood cholesterol levels.”
The presentation also discussed results of a placebo-controlled human clinical trial of 60 adults who took the L. plantarum combination for 12 weeks. The results of this study, according to the presenter, was a significant reduction of 13.6% in total cholesterol levels in the probiotic group. Here, the study authors noted that “The present results showed that the biofunctionality of L. plantarum (CECT 7527, CECT 7528 and CECT 7529) is proportional to the cardiovascular risk of the patient, having a better effect in patients with higher levels of cholesterol.”
Weight management tends to be a prime focus of many health conferences (both natural and pharmaceutical/conventional medicine). And at Probiota Americas 2019, there were some exciting developments presented that linked probiotics to healthy weight reduction. Another presentation discussed a study about the probiotic Bifidobacterium animals ssp. Lactis 420 (B420) alone, polydextrose (dietary fiber as Litesse® Ultra or LU) alone, placebo or the synbiotic (B420 plus LU) on body fat mass and other obesity-related factors. The researchers found that the synbiotic helped manage body fat mass especially in the abdomen, while also reducing waist circumference. Both the probiotic and prebiotic fiber also reduced waist circumference – but the synbiotic was the only supplement that increased lean body mass.
Non-scientific presentations at Probiota Americas actually discussed you. Yes! You! The probiotic consumer. A detailed market analysis from market research leader Lumina Intelligence was a key seminar. Presented by analyst Ewa Hudson, “Probiotics: Age of Microbiome and Online Expression” offered many interesting data-nuggets. For example, this year, people like you are buying probiotic supplements online at a rate of 14% more than last year – in 20 countries!
Reviews of products are important to consumers of all ages. Products that have online/social media reviews are 270% more likely to be purchased than competitive products with no feedback. And 72% of you will actually wait to buy a product that intrigues you until you can read what your peers have to say about it.
If you have an interesting experience – negative as well as positive – quality brands want to hear from you. Don’t be shy. Express your pleasure (or disappointment), describe how the product made you feel, enthuse, emote, and share. Savvy brands, like Culturelle, Innovia and others, are creating active online communities so they can better serve you with their products and mission.
And this would never really happen if it weren’t for annual conventions, tradeshows and scientific congress like Probiota Americas 2019. Cheers to new frontiers!