Gut health platform shows great scope for innovation

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24 Aug 2017 --- The excitement surrounding the future of gut health products is being explored by a number of companies looking to unlock their full potential. Today, NutritionInsight follows up the first part of its special report on gut health by looking at the new ideas taking hold within the world of gut health products.

New applications show stomach for innovation
“Gut health has been the fastest growing category and will continue to lead new product development in our industry,” Daniele Giavini, Managing Director at Indena, tells NutritionInsight. “Any claim related to modulation of the gut microbiota continues to be a priority in or B2B discussions both in the US and Europe. Digestion is also of great interest, as the use of some pharmacological interventions (with specific mechanism of action) has been restricted by EMA in light of their side effects.”

The days of gut health products just being used to settle stomachs seem to be far behind us. “There’s more and more evidence coming out showing additional uses for probiotics. This is not just general uses for probiotics, but more specific uses, such as strains that work specifically for kidney health, or strains that are being studied for cardiovascular health, or cholesterol,” says Michael Bush, President & CEO of probiotic ingredient supplier Ganeden, and also Executive Board President of the International Probiotics Association (IPA).

“The gut-brain axis is one of the emerging areas with the most amount of interest,” adds Bush. “Many consumers and consumer products companies are asking about supporting science, and researchers are looking into the topic. Although the consumer media continues to publish articles saying that probiotics can lead to a reduction in depression, stress or even weight loss, until the data is firmly behind it, I think we won’t see products being launched for several years.”

While the data may not quite be there yet for probiotics’ mental health benefits, the human microbiome is being focused on for future innovations in the gut health space. “As part of its Nature’s No. 1 strategy Chr. Hansen has a strategic focus on the human microbiome,” explains Johan van Hylckama Vlieg, VP Microbiome and Human Health Innovation for Chr. Hansen. “We can announce that we are making significant progress in this area. From over 1,000 recently screened strains from the human microbiome, we have identified a subset of 100 that can be developed for a broad array of health indications associated with gastrointestinal, immune and metabolic health.”

Gut health products are even starting to be used in the pet health space. “Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) in pet food is very new in the sense that people have started caring quite a lot for their pets,” YP Tan from Quantum Hi-Tech Biological (QHT) tells NutritionInsight. “FOS brings in immune system and gastrointestinal (GI) system health benefits and we’re seeing companies like Royal Canin start to use a lot of FOS in their pet food. This is obviously going to extend into all the other Mars pet food […] franchise as well as other pet food manufacturers.”

Current legal situation in Europe
Despite all the positives within the industry, it must be noted that Europe seems to be a difficult space for gut health products at the moment, with the marketing of products made difficult by the tough EU regulation around even the marketing use of the word “probiotic.” “Tightening of regulations has in general impacted the number of innovations brought to the European market,” says Charlotte Beyerholm, Senior Marketing Manager at Chr. Hansen, and it is hard to disagree.

However, hope that the difficulties could be overcome in time is not lost within the industry. “We will never give up on Europe, and we have quite a few partners with probiotic producers in the market in Europe,” says Bush. “I’m very active within the IPA as the executive board president, and we all hold out hope that EFSA [the European Food Safety Authority] will come around. With that hope, we look forward to seeing some IPA members achieve a health claim.”

By Paul Creasy

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