Immunity is top-of-mind for consumers and is predicted to continue well into 2022. According to FMCG Gurus’ Global Digestive Health report in 2021, the desire to support the immune system is the main driver in taking probiotics, with 74% of global consumers reported using probiotics for immunity. Recent research is shining light on how powerful these good bacteria can be for the immune system. With decades of experience in functional ingredients, NZMP offers two unique probiotic strains, BifidoB HN019™ and LactoB HN001™, that have been extensively studied in human trials and have distinct immunity benefits in their own right.
Our gut is the key venue for nutrient absorption, fighting harmful pathogens and regulating the immune system. An important element of the gut-immunity relationship is the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). The GALT consists of the gut microflora and lymphoid tissues which interact to train the immune system to recognize a healthy bacterial environment and ensure that immune responses are triggered only when invaders are identified.
Probiotics collaborate with the GALT to maintain proper functioning of the immune system by maintaining gut integrity and balance. An imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the microbiome may lead to a host of issues like constipation, bloating or even contribute to depression via the gut-brain axis. In the long-term, a greater amount of bad bacteria may result in an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity or certain cancers. Both NZMP strains have proven positive impacts on the immune system through their interaction with the GALT.
Researchers are now going further to examine the link between probiotics and the immune system in regard to preventing and treating common illnesses. A review study published in Nutrients in October 2020 found evidence that specific probiotic strains may be effective against respiratory illness. They found that specific probiotic strains appear to be effective in suppressing viral replication through the modulation of immune responses. NZMP’s probiotic strain BifidoB HN019™ has been clinically shown to reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections in infants.
Research related to COVID-19 and probiotics is in its infancy. Scientists are still discovering how the virus interacts with the immune system. Since probiotics can impact immunity, there is a growing interest in the effect they may have on COVID. However, we currently lack research on the possible effects of probiotics on the virus. “Probiotics can be used to support general immunity, rather than targeting prevention of a specific disease in the wider population,” says Dr. James Dekker, a Senior Research Scientist at Fonterra.
Addressing consumer demand for immunity-supporting products can be challenging due to the complexity of the immune system. Probiotics offer an effective solution with a broad range of health and immunity benefits due to their activity within the digestive tract. However, when choosing probiotics, the quality of the strain selected is important. Educated consumers should be checking that specific strains are backed by robust human clinical data, an advantage offered by BifidoB HN019™ and LactoB HN001™. These strains have proven themselves in increasing gut biodiversity which is key to supporting immunity. The immunity benefits of BifidoB HN019™ and LactoB HN001™ have been reported across various age groups which is good news for vulnerable consumers who are more susceptible to illness and have less diverse microbiomes, such as small children or the elderly.
For years, we’ve known the role that probiotics play in maintaining a healthy gut. Now, the knowledge of the close ties between the gut and immune system presents an array of market opportunities for brands to explore probiotics as a powerful functional ingredient for immunity.