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Talking Immune Health With Kerry’s Dr. Niamh Hunt

Immune Health Immune Health

Nutrition Industry Executive (NIE) reached out to Dr. Niamh Hunt, PhD, manager, immune health, for Beloit, WI-based Kerry, with a few questions about immune nutrition, and here’s what she had to say.

NIE: Bringing the gut microbiome into the mix, how important are pre-, pro-, post- and synbiotics, and why?

The gut microbiome is essential for the normal development and maintenance of a healthy immune system. The gut contains the highest concentration of microorganisms in contact with human immune tissue, most likely because we need to protect ourselves from invasion by harmful pathogens that enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics are living microorganisms that deliver a health benefit when consumed in sufficient quantities.

A 2015 Cochrane Review found that probiotics influence immunity by improving the strength of the barrier between the inside of the intestine and the body, by producing proteins or acids that inhibit pathogen growth in the gut, or by directly or indirectly interacting with immune cells to improve their effectiveness.

There’s now increasing interest in probiotics’ role in maintaining gut health, which is among consumers’ main health concerns, and concomitant growing awareness of the benefits that probiotics may offer.

Kerry’s probiotic portfolio includes the spore-forming BC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) and Sporevia (Bacillus subtilis ATCC12226), which are both robustly supported by published, peer-reviewed clinical research. LC40 (Limosilactobaccilus fermentum CECT 5716), a probiotic strain isolated from human breast milk, has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal infections in infants born by cesarean section by up to 74 percent.

NIE: What are the biggest advances in fortified beverages and functional foods for immunity?

Spore-forming probiotics like BC30 are clinically proven safe and effective for daily supplementation to support immune health. Furthermore, their natural protective outer layer makes them far more resistant to stomach acid, extremes of heat and cold, and to manufacturing techniques such as high-pressure processing (HPP) and high-temperature-short-time pasteurization (HTST). This makes them ideal for a vast range of processes and products, including hot and cold beverages, baked and frozen goods, gummies, confectionery, juices and smoothies.

With consumers keen to incorporate probiotics into their everyday lives, being able to offer the convenience of foods and beverages fortified with probiotics rather than stand-alone supplements can be a real point of difference.

NIE: As to the published science behind finished products or flagship ingredients for immunity, what newest study is the most interesting, and why?

A double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial published in The Lancet Microbe earlier this year found that oral administration of Kerry’s Sporevia eliminated over 95 percent of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) in the human body—while incurring no adverse effects on the gut microbiome.

Compare that to oral antibiotics, which have only rarely been shown to achieve comprehensive elimination of this bacterium, which caused over 119,000 infections and almost 20,000 deaths in the U.S. alone in 2017. Furthermore, antibiotics are notorious for destroying the natural gut microbiota and contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance, which is recognized as one of the biggest challenges in healthcare.

The implications are significant, with the use of Sporevia offering a potential new strategy for use in people with chronic or long-term risk of S. aureus infection. This study certainly makes Sporevia a candidate for further research.