Probiotics: billions of bacteria

Published: 26-Aug-2015

Science suggests positive effects on digestive health when healthy probiotics are part of the daily diet, says Jérôme Darribeau, Regional Product Manager, DuPont Nutrition and Health

Any follower of consumer trends will have observed that digestive health has become an enduring concern; and, many consumers are declaring a preference for foods derived entirely from nature.

This 'natural image,' along with digestive health, feature in the 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health report published by New Nutrition Business, which points out the strong link between the two and the opportunities to support the two trends through the use of well documented probiotic cultures. The link lies in consumer perceptions. As the top trend in this year’s report, natural ingredients are widely seen to be synonymous for health. For manufacturers of products that offer a natural health benefit, the chances of market success are good.

Probiotics fit these trends hand in glove. Comprising live micro-organisms, they supplement the natural microflora present in the human gut — and clinical trials suggest they are able to alleviate the discomfort of mild bowel disorders such as occasional diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. Although as many as two thirds of the population experience one or more of these disorders, particularly women and seniors, 75% of them never seek medical care. By simply making probiotics part of their everyday diet, consumers could potentially impact their digestive well-being positively.

Most probiotics are either bifidobacteria or lactobacilli. First discovered in 1899 in the faeces of breast-fed infants, bifidobacteria are believed to be important for the infants’ higher level of disease resistance compared with formula-fed. Bifidobacteria are, in addition, a major component of the intestinal microflora in adults.

Lactobacilli, by contrast, have played a role in food fermentation since ancient times and are used as starter cultures in fresh fermented dairy products, salami and pickled vegetables. They are also a part of the normal gut microflora and have been shown to impact bowel function as well as certain immune parameters.

Effect on gut stress

New studies continue to support the scientific evidence behind probiotic cultures currently on the market. More recently, DuPont Nutrition and Health conducted a clinical trial with its probiotic formulation for use in connection with antibiotic therapy. The trial pre-empted the launch of a new, effective probiotic formulation, Howaru Restore II, part of the DuPont Danisco range.

Consisting of a combination of selected strains, Howaru Restore II addresses the gut stress that affects one in five antibiotic users. It can also help to alleviate symptoms of gut stress associated with travel, poor diet and a hectic lifestyle. The Lactobacillus strains L. acidophilus NCFM and L. paracasei Lpc-37 in the formulation restore a balanced microflora in the upper intestine. From the Bifidobacterium species, the formulation contains B. lactis Bi-07 and B. lactis Bl-04, and is adapted to target the lower intestine.

To document the benefits, a randomised clinical trial followed a triple-blinded, placebo-controlled protocol. Healthy adult volunteers requiring antibiotic therapy were recruited and categorised according to their age (30–49 and 50–70 years), gender and duration of antibiotic treatment (3–8 and 9–14 days). All subjects received a supplement containing Howaru Restore II or a placebo from the start of therapy until 7 days after cessation. Results revealed that supplementation with Howaru Restore II significantly reduced the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Moreover, it also reduced the duration of diarrhoea and number of liquid stools as well as related symptoms such as fever, bloating and abdominal pain.

Identifying premium strains

Specialist expertise is necessary to identify probiotic strains with the right properties to make a positive impact on consumer health. Apart from being unquestionably safe, all successful strains must demonstrate resistance towards intestinal acid and bile. Moreover, it must show the capability to adhere to the intestinal mucosa to achieve gut colonisation, and good technological properties in foods and dietary supplements. Gastrointestinal performance is evaluated through in vitro and in vivo studies before investigation in clinical trials.

Another strain assessed was Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, the main component of Howaru Bifido, a premium probiotic solution for digestive health that is part of the DuPont Danisco range. Following previous clinical trials, DuPont Nutrition and Health have recently worked with external research partners in the USA to provide new evidence about the strain’s ability to reduce gastrointestinal transit time and the severity of digestive symptoms.

This research used 100 healthy adults with an average age of 44, 64% of subjects were women. These subjects were divided into three groups that received a daily dose of Howaru Bifido. Each group contained concentrations of either one billion active bacteria, 10 billion active bacteria or a placebo. Transit time was assessed by X-ray at the start and on the last day of the 14 day trial. On each visit, the subjects were asked to evaluate their experience of digestive gurgling, nausea, occasional diarrhoea, vomiting, flatulence, constipation, regurgitation, abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements. Both groups that received Howaru Bifido experienced significant improvements in digestive well-being. At a 10 billion dose, Howaru Bifido stood out as the most effective probiotic overall.

Today, there are more than 40 clinical studies documenting the efficacy of the Howaru probiotic range, with results published in leading scientific journals. As well as having digestive health benefits, studies have investigated the effect of probiotics on immune health. In a 26 week double-blind, placebo-controlled study consisting of 216 children aged between 3 and 5 years old, Howaru Protect supplementation was shown to significant reduce the number of fever and cough episodes as well as significantly reduce cold and flu symptoms compared with children in the placebo group.

Moreover, other research using supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 have been shown to significantly improve atopic eczema in children. These studies are believed to have made a valuable contribution to documenting health claims scientifically by the European Food Safety Authority. DuPont Nutrition and Health has made a commitment to continued investment in well-designed human health efficacy studies in partnership with a global network of academics, clinicians and other experts.

Value for customers

These studies confirm how probiotics may benefit the well-being of consumers across all age groups. In view of this year’s top trends, probiotics are perfectly aligned. In fact, such benefits are becoming so well recognized that New Nutrition Business adds: 'Health claim labelling is often redundant.' Consumer awareness of the link between diet and health means the declaration of 'signature' ingredients on product labels is sufficient to attract attention and secure sales. The advantage that probiotics offer is the acknowledgment that consumers can rapidly experience a sense of improved digestive well-being — confirming that they are, indeed, getting good value for money when they choose probiotic products at a premium price.

Probiotics are easy to come by in an everyday diet. Howaru Bifido has been widely tested in foods and beverages and works well alongside other solutions in the DuPont digestive Danisco range, such as the prebiotic soluble fibre, Litesse polydextrose. For food manufacturers, that provides ample opportunities to improve the nutritional profile of products in the dairy, bakery, beverage, confectionery and culinary segments. Infant nutrition and healthcare are further suitable application areas. Howaru Bifido is equally effective in dietary supplements, wherein manufacturers may choose to combine it in their product portfolio with the laxative effect of Osmoaid lactitol.

Howaru Restore, also part of the DuPont Danisco range, is most effective in dietary supplements, yogurts and fresh-fermented or non-fermented milks. The probiotic can also be successfully incorporated in capsules, tablets and powders that maintain the probiotic’s viability during an extended shelf-life. As one of the few ingredient companies with its own health and nutrition centre, located in Kantvik, Finland, DuPont Nutrition and Health is positioned as a probiotic knowledge leader with a detailed understanding of the role its active ingredients play in relation to gut microflora and digestive health. The centre’s state-of-the-art equipment includes a colon simulator, the EnteroMix model that provides accurate insights into the effect of ingredient effects on the colon. Manufacturers can also seek product development assistance from the company’s global application teams.


The expansion of the global probiotic market shows there is every reason for manufacturers to continue investing in new product development within this sector. Even in Europe, where the market is challenged by new regulatory hurdles, there remains visible potential for further growth. As science continues to present new evidence of the benefits, consumers themselves are feeling the difference these micro-organisms make in their lives. A few billion a day is all it takes to keep some of the most common digestive disorders at bay.

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