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Digestion Developments

Once Again Nut Butter
Digestive Health Digestive Health

As consumers learn more about the importance of digestive health, suppliers see to it that natural ingredients are part of their maintenance plan.

Non-GMO Project

The “American diet” might be described as consisting of hamburgers, hot dogs, meatloaf, roast beef, fried chicken and soda, etc. These foods, however, are not what Americans eat every day—American cooking is more diverse.

In fact, “the human diet is diverse,” said Amanda Brown, global sales manager with American Laboratories, Inc. in Nebraska. “And as we are consuming more synthetic foods and ingredients, we need some help breaking down the components into absorbable nutrients for the body to use.”

So it comes as no surprise that consumers are always on the lookout for a good digestive aid, she noted. “There are a multitude of digestive issues that a person could encounter from having trouble digesting gluten to or having lactose intolerance and not being able to properly break down milk.”

As we are learning, many health problems can be traced to the gut, added Dr. John Deaton, vice president of science and technology with Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics in Georgia. “Our diets are filled with convenience foods that often contain preservatives, artificial sweeteners and sugars that negatively affect the microbiome (bacterial population) of the gut by encouraging the growth of candida and undesirable strains of bacteria. It is important to take extra steps to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, and the right digestive health supplement can help create just that.”

Susan J. Hewlings PhD, RD and chief science officer with Oklahoma-based IgY Nutrition, added that research suggests that a disruption in the microflora of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, called dysbiosis, creates an undesirable immune response and related chronic inflammatory conditions. “It has been linked to many other conditions such as gastrointestinal malaise, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Dysbiosis is defined as a shift in the microbiota composition resulting in a decrease in the number of beneficial microbes accompanied by an increase of harmful microbes in the intestinal tract. There is a connection between dysbiosis and immunity. Research indicates that 70 to 80 percent of the immune system originates in the GI tract. Addressing GI tract health and any potential dysbiosis is the place to start in improving overall health that therefore automatically addresses the underlying cause of so many conditions.”


The best ingredients for healthy digestion are enzymes already found and being produced in the human body, said Brown. “For example, amylase is an enzyme present in the saliva of humans and some other mammals where the digestion process begins. By supplementing additional amylase in a diet it helps start the break down of starch. There is not one set group of consumers for digestive products because all people consume food and can use help digesting the individual components. Enzymes can help with the symptoms of poor digestion like bloating, and gas to improve the way you feel.”

American Laboratories’ Pancreatin is a digestive enzyme secreted by the hog pancreas that the company isolates in its manufacturing process. “Pancreatin contains protease, amylase and lipase for the breakdown of proteins, starches and fats respectively,” Brown explained. “This all-encompassing product makes for a great overall digestive health product due to the three enzymes found within the product that each target a different component to break down. Pancreatin’s enzyme components are a naturally occurring within the human body, so by supplementing your diet with a digestive aid containing Pancreatin, it helps boost your natural digestion process.”

Deaton noted that most consumers who incorporate enzymes into their supplement plan are well educated (they invest a lot of time researching the products that are best for them), brand loyal and typically lead healthier and more active lifestyles.

“Because our bodies’ natural ability to produce digestive enzymes declines as we age, enzyme supplements are also a popular choice to aid in digestion for increasingly popular ‘healthy aging’ market,” he said. “Enzyme supplements continue to gain recognition among consumers for their role in digestive health and bioavailability of nutrients from foods. The ability to break down food into its basic and useful components is of critical concern for consumers interested in functional nutrition for growth, development and supporting healthy aging.”

Marc Jensen, technical marketing manager with Virginia-based BIO-CAT Microbials, noted that along with essential vitamins and minerals, the company believes that digestive enzymes and probiotic supplements are necessary since modern food production and processing may be eliminating these from the supply chain. “Our aging population may be increasingly deficient in natural digestive enzymes. There is a growing list of health conditions where enzymes deficiencies have been identified, and many of our most shelf-stable foods have been processed with pressure and heat to eliminate natural enzymes and beneficial microorganisms.”

BIO-CAT offers a curated portfolio of natural, non-GE (genetically engineered) digestive enzymes in custom formulations, blending to manufacturers specifications for optimal performance at physiological pH and temperature. Hydrolytic enzymes and beneficial living organisms that enhance metabolism by lowering the amount of energy required for digestion while reducing gas production and reducing the duration of bloating.

Pro- and Prebiotics Regarding probiotics and prebiotics, Deaton added, “We’ve all witnessed the tremendous increase in awareness of the benefits probiotics can offer for digestive health by helping maintain a healthy balance in the intestinal microbiota. In fact, accelerated product innovation and clinical research on the benefits of probiotics have created the momentum for an expected 6.5 percent CAGR (compound annual grown rate) in the probiotics market over the next five years.”

Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, have been well studied, and the science is supportive of the benefits of these non-spore probiotic strains. “Since different strains offer specific benefits, our customers are increasingly seeking a multi-strain formulation of both non-spore and spore forming probiotics,” Deaton said. “Based on this demand, more science is emerging to support the benefits of spore forming probiotic strains, such as Bacillus subtilis.” Deaton explained that Deerland has genome sequenced for safety, and clinically tested for efficacy DE111, a highly effective strain of Bacillus subtilis, a very stable probiotic spore that supports digestive health and works as a complement to many of the non-spore strains that are also available. The genome sequencing confirmed the strain contained no plasmids, antibiotic resistant or deleterious genes. Three separate human clinical studies have been performed on the strain, which showed the strain’s ability to control microbial populations, aid in digestion, maintain general health and support regularity, he said.

“In addition, research has shown that there are certain prebiotics that can increase the benefits of probiotics; however, these fiber-based prebiotics often come along with several drawbacks,” he said. “In response to this growing trend, Deerland’s research and development team introduced a unique prebiotic that is not fiber or starch based, is highly effective in small doses (15 mg) and does not exhibit any of the drawbacks of more commonly used prebiotics. This novel prebiotic, called PreforPro, is backed by both in-vitro and human clinical studies that demonstrate its superiority to the typical fiber-based prebiotics that have been used to date.”

Dr. Larry Robinson, vice president of scientific affairs with Embria Health Sciences in Iowa, noted that maintaining a healthy gut is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. “That’s why we believe that supporting your existing microbiome is the best way to start,” he said. “Probiotics are a good way to introduce certain bacteria into the body, but may not support the great diversity of beneficial bacteria present in the gut.” Published human clinical studies have shown that the company’s EpiCor fermentate, a natural fermentation ingredient, helps to beneficially shift the composition of the gut microbiome while reducing bloating and feelings of fullness. Prebiotic fibers, on the other hand, may increase bloating and feeling of fullness.

Robinson added that combining probiotics and EpiCor could be a synergistic formula for consumers wanting an advanced solution.

“People who are looking to support their gastrointestinal health usually have moderate digestive problems,” Robinson said. He pointed to a study the company conducted in February 2017 of 1,052 people—18.82 percent of those surveyed take digestive supplements to support their overall health and wellness (20.3 percent), digestive discomfort (15.6 percent) and bowel function (15.23 percent). Further, 69.10 percent of people surveyed are interested in digestive supplements but aren’t taking one because they are confused about all the choices (21.94 percent) or don’t suffer enough from digestive issues to buy a supplement (16.53 percent).

“There is still a lot of education needed to help consumers understand what digestive health options are available,” Robinson said. “That’s why in addition to providing published research to the market, Embria is continually contributing to awareness by creating educational content through video, blog, social media and website platforms.”

Probiotics in Breast Milk

Among probiotics strategies, the use of probiotics naturally found in breast milk is particularly interesting, said Beatriz Botija Ródenas, health care product manager at Biosearch Life, in Madrid, Spain (Stauber is the exclusive U.S. distributor for Biosearch Hereditum probiotics). “Some of these microorganisms, which contribute to initiating correct colonization in the infant intestine, have been isolated and characterized showing a high probiotic potential,” Ródenas said. “This is the case in Lactobacillus fermemtum CECT5716 LC40, a strain originally isolated from breast milk, with high antibacterial and immunomodulatory potential. The beneficial effect of this strain has been demonstrated in several clinical tests among hundreds of children.

“Continuing with the strategy of using strains from breast milk origin, Lactobacillus gasseri CECT5714, a strain isolated from breast milk, in combination with a strain from goat milk, Lactobacillus coryniformis CEC5711, induced changes in the water content of the feces, stool volume and frequency of bowel movement, evidencing the capability of this probiotic combination to improve intestinal function.”

This effect may be related to an increase in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA), Ródenas explained. “These metabolites produced by microbiota activity, are the main energy source for colonocytes and contribute to several gut functions including carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, control of the colonic pH, maintenance of the integrity of the colonic mucus, intestinal mobility or absorption. Interestingly, it has also been observed that an increase in the fecal bulk dilutes carcinogens, mutagens and tumor promoters, and results in a lower risk of colon cancer, while a faster transit can reduce exposure of the gut mucus to potential cancer-inducing agents that may be found among the intestinal content. In addition, the presence of butyrate is usually linked to anti-neoplastic activities such as increased apoptosis, lower proliferation rate or down regulation of angiogenesis. Therefore, the maintenance of butyrate concentrations in the colon may be considered as a potential health-promoting factor because of its potential role in the prevention of colon cancer.”

The modulation of intestinal microbiota by probiotics is an efficient strategy to prevent diseases and alterations in the gastrointestinal tract, Ródenas added. Probiotics originally isolated from breast milk are an excellent alternative for taking advantage of the strains naturally transferred from mothers to influence infant colonization, she said.

Ingredient Actions

Embria’s EpiCor ingredient is clinically shown to strengthen the immune system and support GI health, Robinson pointed out. The latest human clinical trial shows that EpiCor significantly improves overall digestive comfort including less bloating and feelings of fullness while supporting stool consistency in those with mild constipation. EpiCor may also help increase the frequency of stools. All this is accomplished with a low 500 mg dose, compared to multiple grams needed for prebiotic fibers.

“These improvements in digestive health may be linked to EpiCor’s ability to help beneficially shift the microbiome,” Robinson said. “A higher ratio of firmicutes to bacteroidetes has been shown in subjects with constipation-associated digestive problems. EpiCor has been show to decrease this ratio through relative decreases of unfavorable bacteria within the Firmicutes phylum and a relative increase in the Bacteriodetes phylum. In particularly, EpiCor helps boost beneficial bacteria by significantly increasing bacteroides and prevotella in the Bacteroidetes phylum, which are known to help reduce gastrointestinal transit times.”

EpiCor was also shown to increase anaerostipes, a beneficial genus in the Firmicutes phylum recognized for its health enhancing effects and contains acetate- and lactate-consuming bacteria and butyrate-producing bacteria. Butyrate is known to support immune health and this increase in anaerostipes may link EpiCor’s ability to modulate the microbiome with its immune health benefits.

EpiCor also helps increase Akkermansia muciniphila, a genus important for proper gut function and is inversely correlated with metabolic disorders.

Samantha Ford, business development manager with AIDP, Inc. in California, said the company has several natural ingredients in the digestive health space that are scientifically proven, through human clinical studies and consumer feedback, to support digestive health. For example, AIDP’s PreticX XOS (xylooligosaccharide) prebiotic has been shown in human clinical studies to selectively boost healthy bifidobacteria, while reducing unhealthy bacteria in the gut. “A major advantage of PreticX is its clinical effectiveness at low dosages, compared to other ingredients in this space, thereby greatly reducing undesirable side effects,” Ford said. “Another example is AIDP’s Livaux prebiotic which is a whole kiwifruit ingredient shown to increase healthy Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (F. prau). F. prau is the most abundant bacteria species in the gut accounting for approximately 8 percent of the total colonic microbiota and is extremely important for production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, maintaining gut barrier function and reducing oxidative stress. Despite its importance, F. prau is sensitive to oxygen and cannot be obtained through supplemented probiotics, lending to the uniqueness of Livaux and its ability to naturally support healthy F. prau levels.”

Supporting prebiotics, Hewlings noted that IgY Max is a polyvalent antigen specific IgY product from specifically immunized eggs that target 26 of the most common human-relevant pathogens. “It supports the role of prebiotics by aiding in immune system function and by decreasing ‘bad’ bacteria while leaving the good intact.”

The ingredient promotes GI health by increasing gut wall integrity, improving bowel function and reducing non-beneficial bacteria adherence. In addition to favorably altering the composition of the microbiome, IgY Max supports the digestive tract lining, promotes proper microbial adhesion, supports immune system health, supports the body’s natural defenses and promotes proper cytokine balance. Moreover, IgY Max is able to exert its activity within the entire length of the GI tract. Due to its mechanism of action, IgY Max is an effective tool to address issues caused by dysbiosis.

Ingredient Evolution

BIO-CAT acknowledges a multitude of factors that aided the evolution. “As the dominant supplier of digestive enzymes into the current supplement market,” Jensen said, “BIO-CAT continues to validate the premium quality of these enzymes, supporting improved transparency within the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Farm to Fork and other initiatives. As a fully integrated manufacturer and supplier of shelf-stable probiotic strains, BIO-CAT Microbials is identifying new probiotic delivery options for its customers to deliver living beneficial probiotics even at the end of shelf-life.”

Ford added that the knowledge on prebiotics has grown exponentially over the last five years, which has led to new prebiotics such as XOS entering the market. She pointed out that AIDP’s PreticX XOS received its U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notice in 2014, making it suitable for food and beverage applications in addition to dietary supplements. “This is important as consumers are increasingly interested in alternative delivery formats—such as gummies, stick packs, ready to drink beverages, and even functional snacks and bars, as opposed to traditional capsules and tablets.”

Overall, “Consumers are drawn to natural ingredients that are not synthetically produced,” Brown said. She pointed out that Pancreatin, an enzyme that has been on the market for more than 75 years, has stood the test of time.

Research and Trends

“Consumers are increasingly recognizing that they might have difficulty with normal digestion of some wheat and dairy foods,” said Deaton. “Eighteen million Americans believe they have difficulty digesting gluten, while a whopping 50 million report discomfort due to ingestion of dairy products (Center for Celiac Research and Treatment, American Gastroenterological Association). Maximizing digestion of proteins helps to support overall health and wellness, and enzyme-based solutions can help.” To address the growing demand for products that address food sensitivities, Deerland’s products Glutalytic and Dairylytic have been designed to optimize digestion of gluten and dairy proteins.

Robinson added, “People are hearing and learning more about the microbiome and we believe that it will be the continuing trend in the digestive health area over the coming years. In fact, according to our February 2017 survey, more than half (55.71 percent) are aware of their gut microbiome. We expect this number to continue to increase.”

And consumers’ expectation for efficacy is high. “We are encouraged by the increasing demand from our customers to develop more complex products that have scientific validation and human clinical support where appropriate,” said Deaton. “Many of our customers continue to challenge us on a daily basis to ensure that our products are first and foremost safe, and that they’re efficacious. Brand marketers are, rightfully so, expecting clinical substantiation for their products. Conscientious brand marketers are supporting their efficacy claims with data grounded in good fundamental science. Oftentimes, marketers are somewhat limited regulatorily in what they can claim in terms of efficacy. The FDA allows structure-function claims only, which don’t always resonate with consumers. Brand marketers rely on published human clinical studies that can really explain the effect of the product in depth. Formulating products with branded ingredients is especially beneficial in this regard, since those ingredients are well studied and publicized—information that is easily accessible by the consumer.”

Also to consider, said Jensen, “The natural food sector continues to expand through entrepreneurship and start-ups, while major food companies are increasingly interested in competing by extending traditional and established product lines. Upstream processing using natural enzymes and the addition of digestive enzymes and probiotics into nondairy, non-refrigerated, shelf-stable products will continue.”

Hewlings agreed, noting that there are new products emerging all of the time, too many to list but with varying mechanisms of action. “I expect to see continued development in methodology and in defining what is a healthy microbiome. In addition, I expect to see continued research on the connection between the microbiome and its human host at the genetic and molecular level and how nutrigenomics and other aspects of host environment impact this. This will lead to improved development of products to support the development of a healthy microbiome which will in turn positively affect health and potentially longevity.” NIE

For More Information:
AIDP, www.aidp.com
American Laboratories, www.americanlaboratories.com
BIO-CAT, www.bio-cat.com/www.bcmicrobials.com
Biosearch Life, www.biosearchlife.com
Deerland Enzymes, www.deerlandenzymes.com
Embria, Embriahealth.com
IgY Nutrition, igynutrition.com

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