Call it the digestive trifecta, the enzymatic-probiotic smash, or just the union of three booming categories. No matter the name there appears to be a growing interest in combining enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics in a single product. And that has enzyme firms investing in new research and exploring the formulating challenges of these pairings.
At the recent Natural Products Expo West trade show, enzymes supplement company Enzymedica (Venice, FL) spoke with Nutritional Outlook about the potential for enzymes and probiotics to work together for enhancing gut flora. Enzymedica has offered probiotic/enzyme combination products for several years, including its Digest Gold Plus Probiotics and Women’s 50+ Enzyme Nutrition multi-vitamin, but interest in these kinds of pairings has become especially pronounced lately, says Stephanie Helton, marketing manager, Enzymedica.
“A lot of probiotic companies have started looking into ways to have enzymes in their formulas or to bring out their own enzyme lines,” says Helton.
Enzymes supplier Deerland Enzymes (Kennesaw, GA) has also seen more of its customers interested in combining probiotics, enzymes, and even prebiotics in a single product.
“We’re starting to see a lot more [interest], and as a matter of fact so much so that we’re going to invest a significant amount of money now to do clinical [studies] on the combinations of the products and various combinations, because of not only what we’re realizing in sales, but just the feedback we’re getting from the market is nothing short of stellar from this,” says Scott Ravech, CEO for Deerland Enzymes.
A Fraught Relationship?
Yet, despite the possible advantages of combining enzymes and probiotics, there has also been some resistance to the marriage of these two digestive-health heavyweights, says David Barton, director of education for Enzymedica. When Enzymedica first launched probiotic/enzyme combination products more than six years ago, Barton says some enzyme companies were opposed to the marriage and “put out statements and arguments saying enzymes destroy probiotics.” He sees this as a skewed portrayal of the facts.
“What they’re overlooking is probiotics make enzymes,” says Barton. “Enzymes don’t haphazardly destroy probiotics, otherwise probiotics couldn’t live at all. They would kill themselves. What their statement is based on is what happens in a petri dish. But in the gut, where [probiotics are] colonizing and they’re having their families and they’re in the right environment, they’re making tens of thousands enzymes with no problem at all.”
Deerland Enzymes’ Ravech agrees that enzymes and probiotics can be “very complementary.”
“While you get the enzymes that are driving the nutritional uptake of the food, you get the probiotics that are giving you good digestive balance and flora,” says Ravech. “So I think they’re just kind of a hand-in-glove fit.”
Good, Better, Best
Beyond just probiotics and enzymes, Deerland Enzymes is also adding its PreforPro prebiotic to these combinations to further enhance the health benefits. Of course, the product price point increases with the addition of different ingredient types, and Ravech explains it can be a balancing act to find the right potency. He describes Deerland Enzymes' thinking as a “good, better, best” approach, where enzymes alone are good, enzymes plus probiotics are better, and enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics together are best.
“You try to find that point for which someone who can truly benefit at just the broad spectrum digestive [enzyme] blends can just get that,” explains Ravech. “Somebody who needs something a little bit more that might be inclusive of a probiotic will get to the next price point, but also to the next efficacy point. And then someone who wants the prebiotic, the probiotic, and the enzymes, where maybe they have things that are a little bit more severe in their symptomology, can take advantage of that as well.”