As we learn about the inner workings of the digestive system, our understanding of its needs become more apparent.
While there are serious digestive health concerns out there, many do not last long, according to the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Everyone has digestive problems from time to time—an upset stomach, gas, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Many digestive problems may be uncomfortable or embarrassing, but they are not serious and don’t last long. Others can be controlled with simple changes in the diet. But sometimes even common digestive symptoms can be signs of a more serious problem,” said a Womenshealth.org publication entitled “Digestive Health.”
Consumers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated about their food and nutritional choices, said Jon Peters, president of New Jersey-based BENEO, Inc. They expect their diets to contribute to overall wellness, and they expect products that are non-GMO (genetically modified organism) and clean label. According to consumer research commissioned by BENEO in the U.S., benefits such as overall well being, as well as digestive health, rank high when it comes to purchase decisions, 73 percent and 71 percent respectively, Peters revealed.
Crummy in Your Tummy
In recent years, gluten has been under fire for being the enemy of a healthy, and happy, digestive system. According to Beyond Celiac (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, [NFCA]), an organization founded in 2003 as the first patient advocacy group dedicated to improving access to gluten-free food (the only treatment for celiac) and help drive diagnoses, the celiac disease diagnosis rate may reach 50-60 percent by 2019.
The food industry responded: gluten-free sales reached more than $2.6 billion by the end of 2010, and were expected to exceed $5 billion in 2015. But gluten is not the only source of digestive distress, of course. “Research has revealed that some people have low levels of a particular enzyme (lactase), leaving them unable to fully digest the lactose commonly found in milk and dairy products,” said Maria Pavlidou, head of communications for region HNH EMEA, DSM Nutritional Products Human Nutrition and Health division, Switzerland. “Again, the food industry has stepped in and lactose-free options of milk, yogurt and ice cream are more accessible than ever.”
However, gluten and lactose aren’t the full story, Pavlidou said. A range of other products, from wheat to different additives and preservatives, are accused of being the cause of digestive complaints. She said she believes that the future is likely to hold other commonly eaten foods as the cause of their common gut problems, such as bouts of constipation, indigestion, gas and stomachaches.
The good news is that there are ingredients that aid in relieving digestive discomfort, bloating, gas, etc. These include pre- and probiotics, fibers, digestive enzymes and even plant extracts.
Pre- and Probiotics
Prebiotics are one of the newest ingredients in the digestive health market, said Ainslee Crum, CEO of IgY Nutrition in Oklahoma. “Prebiotics are gaining more traction in the digestive health category as research shows the benefits gained by combining probiotics and prebiotics in the gut.”
When prebiotics and probiotics are combined, they form a symbiotic, because they contain live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive since prebiotics act as food for probiotics, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“As knowledge of the human internal microbiome grows, so does our ability to positively affect and balance that biome. The flora in our guts is crucial to immune system health,” Crum said.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that benefit consumers by selectively stimulating the growth of desired, beneficial bacteria in the colon. This improves the balance of the digestive microbiome, and in turn, an individual’s health, Crum explained. Prebiotics also reduce the adherence of pathogenic bacteria in the gut, reducing strain on the immune system.
In a paper titled, “Probiotics: a role in the treatment of intestinal infection and inflammation,” by Dr. E. Isolauri, department of paediatrics, and P.V. Kirjavainen and S. Salminen, department of biochemistry and food chemistry, all at the University of Turku, Finland, in the online journal Gut, described how inflammation and infection are frequently accompanied by imbalance in the intestinal microflora. The paper stated, “A strong inflammatory response may then be mounted to microfloral bacteria, leading to perpetuation of the inflammation and gut barrier dysfunction. Probiotic bacteria may counteract the inflammatory process by stabilizing the gut microbial environment and the intestine’s permeability barrier, and by enhancing the degradation of enteral antigens and altering their immunogenicity.”
Pre- and probiotics are closely related to gut health, and there is new research being released every day on the benefits and effects, agreed Michael Bush, senior vice president of Ohio-based Ganeden. “For example, Ganeden’s patented strain, GanedenBC30 has been shown in more than 20 studies to support gut health through mechanisms such as gut pH lowering, bacteriocin production and helping provide an environment that is conductive to the growth of other native gut bacteria. However,” Bush continued, “the newest and most recent studies show that GanedenBC30 supports protein utilization and digestive health in seniors.”
Consumers are moving away from taking another pill or changing their dietary habits. Instead they are asking for convenient, great-tasting foods and beverages that fit their daily lifestyle and provide them with complete nutrition.
Due to the functional nature of pre- and probiotics, they naturally align well with cereals, breads and other high fiber foods, and are suited for a wide variety of formulations, Crum said. They can be put into beverages, as well as powder, gum or liquid supplements.
In addition to creating combinations, other innovations stemming from the world of probiotics include new delivery forms, such as oro-dispersible sticks or water-soluble solutions, said Feuz Bérengère, marketing group manager, Lallemand Health Solutions, Canada. “In terms of effects and approach, exciting innovations come from the field of brain gut axis communication: the role of the gut, sometimes called ‘the second brain’ in our well-being and emotional equilibrium is increasingly documented.”
Bérengère said that the topic of the brain-gut communication axis is quickly gaining momentum in the general public, along with being increasingly understood by scientists. The 2015 book, Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, made it to the bestsellers shelf. “[It] is a sign that consumers are growing interest and gaining [an] understanding of the complexity of our gut’s function!” Bérengère continued.
Lallemand Health Solutions developed the first probiotic preparation (Probio’Stick) clinically documented to alleviate both psychological and physiological symptoms of stress, according to Bérengère. “This is an innovative solution to address the modern lifestyle of active stressed people in search of natural, holistic approach[es].”
“The digestive health market today is dominated by prebiotics and probiotics, but we can also find enzymes and some botanical extracts that claim a health benefit of this segment,” said Sandrine Cuisenier, marketing manager for France-based Lesaffre Human Care.
Digestive enzymes are normally produced in the pancreas and small intestine, and break down food into nutrients so the body can absorb them. People who look to use digestive enzymes usually have indigestion with gas and bloating, said Mike Smith, vice president of Specialty Enzymes & Biotechnologies based in California. “They commonly have been dissatisfied with antacids and/or so called proton pump inhibitor drugs.”
Digestive enzymes dominate the category, according to Smith. “Unlike most dietary supplements, digestive enzymes produce results you can actually feel. There is no denying relief of digestive discomfort, gas or bloating.”
Digestive enzymes are specific to certain problems, “The trend in digestive health products continues toward condition specific enzyme blends versus general digestive blends. Most notably, products for dairy intolerance, gluten sensitivity and overall gastro intestinal (GI) health,” Smith continued.
According to Smith, microbial source enzymes are dominating. They are manufactured by fermentation of fungal or bacterial organisms by two main fermentation techniques: submerged fermentation and surface or semi-solid fermentation. Specialty Enzymes performs both techniques to produce many different enzymes from amylase to xylanase. The most common enzymes produced include: proteases that break down protein, amylases which break down starch, lipases that break down fat, and lactase, which breaks down milk.
Another enzyme source are true plant enzymes, which are extracts, such as bromelain, an extract from the stem of pineapple, and papain, an extract from the latex of immature papaya.
Supplementing with ginger may help address some of the immediate concerns of digestive problems, including nausea, bloating, gas and discomfort. “Ginger has been a cornerstone for digestive health as well as for other digestive conditions, including motion sickness, nausea and vomiting,” said Lynda M. Doyle, MS Human Nutrition, vice president of global marketing for OmniActive Health Technologies.
Multiple studies have reviewed ginger’s ability to reduce nausea and even morning sickness (in the first trimester). It is used to reduce severity of seasickness and reduces nausea just as effectively as B6 and the antiemetic drug dimenhydriante, Doyle continued.
Gingever, a ginger extract from OmniActive, is a first-to-market opportunity as a branded, high-potency ginger extract, Doyle said. Gingever was developed with an emphasis on purity, potency and batch-to-batch consistency. “Our supercritical CO2 extraction process produces a ginger extract with little damage or denaturing, and without the use of harsh extraction solvents,” Doyle said.
The third enzyme source, after microbial and true plant, is animal and is predominately from the stomach and pancreas of the pig. These enzymes include pancreatin, trypsin, chymotrypsin and pepsin. The demand for enzymes derived from plant and microbial sources have led to the somewhat decline of animal sourced enzymes, Smith said.
Smith also revealed that there are not many well-controlled, double-blind clinical studies on digestive enzymes. “[The] studies that exist tend to be anecdotal. Not that they are without value. The reality is that it is difficult to demonstrate the effect of enzymes within the gastrointestinal system without significant invasive techniques.”
There are some in vitro mechanisms to demonstrate digestion, and an example includes the TNO Nutrition & Food Research (TIM-1). According to the TNO Trikelion website, “The TIM systems accurately simulate the dynamic physiological processes and conditions within the GI tract, such as transit, body temperature, peristaltic movements, pH, gastric and intestinal enzymes and bile salts. The TIM-1 system represent[s] the GI tract from the stomach through small intestine, while TIM-2 mimics the colon. The GI conditions in human healthy adults are simulated, but these can be adapted to simulate a wide range of target populations, such as infants and patients with impaired gastrointestinal conditions or to simulate the GI physiology of animals such as dogs and pigs.”
Cuisenier agreed, noting that digestive health clinical studies are hard to perform and difficult to obtain significant results. “IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) for example, display[s] a substantial placebo effect.” She also revealed that the health benefits of certain products are numerous and becomes challenging to target just one of them.
“Our studies on IBS are among the best in the dietary supplement industry,” Cuisenier said. The studies were performed on 600 volunteers and demonstrated significant results on intestinal pain, which alters the quality of life of people with IBS. Results of these studies were published in peer-review journals and led Health Canada to grant their product ibSium a health claim this summer. Lesaffre Health Care also received positive results from a large consumer study conducted by family doctors on more than 1,160 volunteers.
“BENEO’s inulin-type fructans (inulin and oligofructose) are produced from chicory root via a gentle water extraction method versus some other fibers that require a chemical process (acid, heat and enzymatic processes catalyzing condensation of glucose) to synthesize the ingredient from glucose syrup,” Peters explained.
Chicory root fibers are proven prebiotics, Peters said. One of the ways chicory root fibers contribute to wellbeing, resilience and health, is by promoting regular and balanced digestive systems. Various studies have shown that inulin stimulates bowel movements in a mild and natural manner, it also received a positive opinion for a proprietary health claim earlier this year by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The EFSA’s decision was based on six human intervention studies that consistently proved that consumption of inulin increases stool frequency without triggering diarrhea. This is due to inulin resisting digestion in the small intestine, while being fully fermented in the large intestine.
“For those consumers who have difficulties in consuming enough fiber (the so called ‘fiber gap’ between the recommended amount of fiber intake and the actual intake), prebiotic fibers such as inulin and oligofructose help them achieve the recommended intake,” Peters said.
“In the future, the focus will be more about ‘digestive wellness’ as consumers increasingly understand the close link between digestive health, regularity and well being. Also consumers very closely link fibers with beneficial effects on the digestive system. One in three consumers are consuming fibers to improve regularity and thus their digestion,” Peters shared.
In a consumer interview, commissioned by BENEO and conducted by Health Focus International, 67 percent of 1,000 people found “high in natural fiber” as a very appealing fiber claim for food and beverage products.
BENEO sees a clear trend for more natural and non-GMO products, Peters said. According to U.S. consumer research 47 percent of respondents are actively seeking natural fibers, and 45 percent consider non-GMO products as “better.”
With so many consumers looking for natural and more healthful products, cross-functional foods are becoming more important for manufacturers.
“A breakfast burrito with probiotics that not only fills you up, but also provides a daily dose of probiotics, fiber and protein; or a probiotic fortified juice, which in one bottle provides a few servings of fruit, fiber and their daily dose of probiotics, are trends where we have seen tremendous growth,” Bush said.
DSM recently launched a new health benefit platform, “Improve Your Digestion,” which, according to the company, provides a unique range of solutions for creating customized products to support different requirements for digestive health. The platform extends to a comprehensive portfolio that features enzymes Tolerase L and Tolerase G, for processing lactose and gluten, a selection of nutraceutical ingredients such as pre- and probiotics and OatWell dietary fibers from oat beta-glucan that have been proven to benefit a healthy gut, intestinal immunity and bowel function; as well as vitamins A, B2, C, D, E, biotin, niacin, nutritional lipids and DSM’s Fabuless patented oil-in-water emulsion.
Immunity is important when it comes to the gut, with pathogenic bacteria and other harmful things making their way into the stomach. By specifically targeting 26 pathogenic bacterial strains commonly encountered by humans, IgY Max by IgY Nutrition acts as a prebiotic, helping the body eliminate only the harmful bacteria while leaving the good microbes intact with reduced competition and more space to flourish. The beneficial microbes can then perform their natural functions: aiding in digestion, supplying nutrients and vitamins, and supporting the immune system.
IgY Max is made from hyperimmune egg powder with no active chemicals. “IgY Max contains antibodies that exclusively target pathogens,” Crum said. The ingredient supports the digestive tract lining, promotes proper microbial adhesion, supports immune system health, supports the body’s natural defenses and promotes proper cytokine balance, according to the company.
“IgY Max also contains naturally occurring cytokine-inhibitory factors that limit the excessive inflammation that leads to gastrointestinal discomfort,” Crum continued.
In addition to its platform, DSM also offers Fortitech Premixes service, which delivers precise blends of the desired functional ingredients in one single, efficient, homogenous premix, Pavlidou said.
Ganeden’s GanedenBC30, which supports immune health and digestive health, can be formulated into any product that is frozen, baked, extruded or processed. Traditionally, probiotics have been delivered in yogurt or supplement form, but with this introduction, this probiotic can be introduced into a larger sect of the food and beverage industry, Bush said. It can also be included in sports nutrition and even companion animal products, with the exception of UHT or shelf stable beverages.
Lesaffre Human Health Care offers two flagship ingredients to the digestive health market. Lynside Pro SCB is a living yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii. The boulardii strain is already used in more than 100 countries. It has more than 75 clinical studies proving efficacy in helping to restore balanced gut flora, promoting normal bowel function in adults and children, and protecting the gut against travel-related and antibiotic associated GI-distress.
ibSium, also by Lesaffre, contains a patented registered strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae: CNCMI-3856. It has demonstrated a significant effect in improving abdominal discomfort in individuals with IBS through clinical and consumer studies, and because of that obtained a health claim from Canadian authorities, Cuisenier said.
BENEO’s inulin and oligofructose, as a soluble fiber with a mild sweetness, can be applied into various applications, Peters said. Chicory root fiber can be used in, pasta, baked goods, dairy products and cereals. It can also be used in ice cream, mousses, chocolate and confectionary.
In addition, BENEO’s long-chain inulin can be used for fat reduction in several food products, Peters revealed. “In this way, chicory root fibers reduce calories but add fiber and contribute not only to digestive health but also to weight management.”
What to Keep in Mind
There are a lot of options regarding digestive health, and the biggest challenge is to provide clarity for consumers suffering from information overload, Pavlidou said. “The internet and media are awash with information about digestion—from scientific studies to fad diets based on nothing more than the flimsiest understanding of how the complex human gastrointestinal tract works and everything in between. Add to this, the fact that there has never been more pressure to lead a healthy lifestyle and adopt a healthy diet to match, and it’s easy to imagine that consumers are starting to feel overwhelmed. Meanwhile there are books and apps aplenty offering to help people find the best diet to meet their needs,” Pavlidou explained.
“Manufacturers should opt for functional ingredients that have a similar behavior in the food matrix including taste and texture, while being natural and helping to replace over-represented ingredients and unwanted additives,” Peters said.
Pavlidou said manufacturers that are developing new products that offer digestive benefits have two challenges. The first is to make sure their product offers the specific digestive benefits consumers want, and second, getting their messages across in a sea of conflicting advice and information to clearly communicate the digestive benefits of their brands directly to consumers.
“People in charge of procurement have to be specifically careful about stability when purchasing living microorganisms, as these represent a key success factor. They need to control stability in both the ingredient offered as well as the finished product,” Cuisenier said.
When it comes to enzymes, a common confusion for manufacturers and formulators is a lack of understanding how enzymes are measured, Smith said. “Unlike other dietary supplements, enzyme weight is less important than enzyme activity. That is, the enzyme’s ability to hydrolyze (digest) a substrate. An enzyme can have significantly different activities at the same mg weight,” Smith said.
For example, Smith noted that a protease can have an activity of 1,000 HUT/g and it can also have up to 800,000 HUT/g. “What that means is 800,000 HUT/g protease can break down 800 times more protein than the 1,000 HUT/g protease, at the same weight. Incidentally, the HUT assay is a way of measuring or standardizing the activity of a fungal protease enzyme,” Smith explained. Further, enzymes are very substrate specific. Protease enzymes only digest proteins, it does nothing to fat or carbohydrates. Lipase only digests fats, amylase only digests starch, and so on.
Potential Challenges in Digestive Health
Crum revealed other challenges that she thinks manufacturers encounter in the category of digestive health exclusively. The first is the regulatory frame. She noted that companies are struggling to conduct research that doesn’t cross the line between function claims and drug claims. “One of the biggest issues with current research from a regulatory standpoint is the difficulty of showing a result in already healthy subjects.”
The second challenge is defining what it means to have a healthy digestive system. There are many unknowns in identifying all the benefits of a healthy, functioning gut.
And finally, Crum said the saturation of probiotics in the market is a steep challenge. “There are many different strains and most consumers lack the time and inclination to educate themselves about the differences. The best way to overcome these obstacles is to have objective studies and research that establishes the benefits of the products.”
Looking ahead, digestive health is important to overall health. “We all understand the role the gut plays in breaking down nutrients but it is widely unknown that the digestive system is also ground zero for many of the body’s essential functions,” Bush concluded. NIE
For More Information:
BENEO, Inc., (973) 867-2140
DSM, +31 45 578 8111
Ganeden, (440) 229-5200
IgY Nutrition, (405) 242-5381
Lallemand Health Solutions, +33 5 62 74 55 08
Lesaffre Human Care, www.lesaffrehumancare.com
OminActive Health Technologies, (866) 588-3629
Specialty Enzymes & Biotechnologies, (909) 613-1660
TNO Triskelion BV, +33 88 8662800, www.tnotriskelion.com