Digestive health ingredients: New research on postbiotics, butyrate at 2023 SupplySide West


These ingredient advances will take digestive health supplements to the next level.

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Rasi

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Rasi

Digestive support is a leading category in supplements. At October’s SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas, ingredient suppliers shared their latest advances and discoveries for their gut health ingredients.

A Better Butyrate

Kemin Human Nutrition and Health (Des Moines, IA) showcased its new ButiShield ingredient, an advanced encapsulated form of calcium butyrate. While calcium butyrate isn’t new to the digestive health market, this version is, the company said, because it’s significantly easier for manufacturers and consumers to handle.

“Calcium butyrate is not unknown in the market,” said Mackenzie Leith, marketing manager, North America, Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, at SupplySide West. “It’s been around. But a lot of people don’t want to use it because it has an unpleasant odor. What we found is with our encapsulation technology, we really cut down that odor. It’s not undetectable, but it’s not unpleasant.”

This helps at the manufacturing plant where the odor of standard calcium butyrate sticks to the hands and clothes. And consumers who purchase standard calcium butyrate supplements are often advised to pour a capsule into a bottle cap instead of touching it directly to avoid transferring the smell to their hands. Now, these concerns are minimized thanks to ButiShield. Encapsulation also protects the active ingredient through the digestion process by providing a slow release.

Calcium butyrate remains a key ingredient in the digestive health space because the butyric acid it releases, which is a short-chain fatty acid, helps support healthy intestinal cells and the intestinal barrier. Unfortunately, Leith said, the body’s production of butyric acid slows down with age, making exogenous supplementation beneficial.

ButiShield is now an advanced ingredient in this category, she added. “It really helps manufacturers get the health claims they’re looking for. It allows consumers to protect their gut health and really have that sustaining, controlled release to help their digestive system so it doesn’t all break down in the stomach. It’s getting down to that large intestine where butyric acid can really help improve your gut health.”

At SupplySide West, Filipa Quintela, global marketing communications manager, EMEA, Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, added, “We feel like this [ingredient] can really change how we see gut health and can really be the next big thing in intestinal health, because if you think about short-chain fatty acids and how they are produced in our body, there’s so much variability that you need to control. First of all, you need to control your genetics, which are really out of your control. Then you have to control your diet to have not only the right amount of fiber but the right type of fiber. Then you have to have an optimal microbiome so that you can have the right bacteria to produce these types of metabolites called short-chain fatty acids, which includes butyric acid, which we bring to the market with ButiShield…”

Supplementing with ButiShield can help ensure optimal butyric acid levels and benefit the body. Of short-chain fatty acids, Quintela said, “What’s interesting about these molecules is not only the effect they have on the gut—because it’s a primary location where they’re absorbed by the intestinal lining—but also how amazing it is that we have these receptors spread around our body, such as in adipose tissue, the brain, and others, that really work together with this molecule. They have specific receptors all over the body. So it goes beyond just gut health but overall well-being, and we think this will really change how we see the gut health market.”

ButiShield can also be combined with other trending gut health ingredients such as biotics or fibers, Quintela added. She did point out one limitation for now, which is formulating ButiShield into drinks. This can be challenging due to the ingredient’s microencapsulated form and the odor within. “But it is suitable for the most-used formats in the market such as capsules or stick packs to put directly in the mouth, or, who knows, even tableting,” she said.

Postbiotic Proof

Meanwhile, in the digestive health space, ADM (Chicago) shared the results of a study, soon to be published, on its ES1 Bifidobacterium longum probiotic strain as well as the heat-treated postbiotic version of the same strain, which came to market a few months ago. According to ADM’s Vaughn DuBow, global director of marketing, microbiome solutions, the study showed that both the probiotic and postbiotic versions of ES1 supported digestive wellness in subjects with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The three-arm study included 200 placebo subjects, 200 ES1 probiotic subjects, and 200 ES1 postbiotic subjects. “What we found was that we were able to reduce IBS symptom severity score by threefold better than placebo,” DuBow explained. In short, he said, those suffering from moderate IBS symptoms saw their symptoms downgrade from moderate symptoms to mild symptoms, while those suffering from mild IBS symptoms saw their symptoms nearly fully reduced.

The study found that both ES1 interventions were able to reduce digestive discomfort in the IBS subjects. “We were able to reduce digestive discomfort by 32%, so people are going to be able to take the product and feel better right away, which is a huge thing,” DuBow said. “If you have digestive discomfort, you’re not doing your normal, daily activities.” In addition, he said a quality-of-life survey administered during the study showed that ES1 subjects saw their “health worry” reduced by nearly 40%.

In addition, the ES1 subjects had their body image improve by 37% compared to placebo. “It goes to show that the gut is connected to so much more than just the belly itself,” DuBow said. “So 37% better body image—people were seeing themselves in the mirror and saying not only am I feeling better but I look better as well. It impacted their brain in a way that showed, ‘I’m happier, I’m feeling better, and I like my body image more.’”

The fact that the postbiotic version of ES1 achieved the same benefits as the ES1 probiotic is notable for formulators, DuBow added, because postbiotics can be formulated into products that are challenging for probiotics. “So gummies, foods, beverages—it doesn’t matter what you put it in,” he said of the ES1 postbiotic. “You can put it within foods that people commonly associate with soothing their belly, whereas with a traditional lactic acid bacteria probiotic, you’re unable to do that. So you can add it to traditional yogurt or milk, or you can add it to a feel-good chocolate chip cookie, or within the pizza dough that you normally wouldn’t eat because it’s got gluten in it and your stomach is going to get upset.”

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