Immune Intense: Dietary supplement and food ingredients tout new immune health uses at SupplySide West 2021

Some suppliers promoted recently launched immune health ingredients; others showed how their existing ingredients, like collagen, have a seat at the immune health table.

Dietary supplement and food ingredient suppliers cranked up the volume on their ingredients’ immune health benefits at October’s SupplySide West trade show. Some suppliers promoted recently launched immune health ingredients; others showed how their existing ingredients, like collagen, have a seat at the immune health table.

For All Ages

Gnosis by Lesaffre (Lille, France) wants the market to know that its branded, stable Bacillus subtilis CU1 probiotic spore strain LifeinU BSCU1 can support immune health across age groups, from infants to adults. In fact, part of the interest in LifeinU BSCU1 that Gnosis by Lesaffre is seeing stems from the fact that the ingredient caters to everyone, said Amelia Connelly, regional sales manager, Gnosis by Lesaffre, at SupplySide West.

“In the last year, with the launch, we’ve seen a lot of interest,” she said. “BSCU1 can be used in toddlers as young as two through elderly people, so it can be cross-marketed...It can be used for the entire family, which is something. Sometimes you have to buy a woman’s probiotic…and then something for children’s health. This product can be taken by the whole family, and I think that’s a benefit in today’s day and age especially during the times that we’re going through.”

Because it is extremely stable during processing, LifeinU BSCU1 makes it easy for formulators to include in a wide variety of delivery types, including both food and dietary supplements—meaning they can develop an application for every target consumer. It also has good shelf life, even in hot or humid environments, the company points out. Not only that, but it’s “a very cost-effective product, and it’s a low dose,” Connelly said.

A recent clinical study showed that LifeinU BSCU1 significantly increased the level of secretory immunoglobulins A (sIgA), which the company describes as immune system antibodies that act as a first-line defense against toxins and infectious agents. The ingredient increases sIgA levels in both the intestine and the saliva, and was associated with a 45% reduction in the frequency of upper respiratory tract infections, according to the Gnosis by Lesaffre website.

Clinical studies show that the ingredient “reduces the length of time of a respiratory infection as well as reduces or increases your immune function so that you don’t get a respiratory infection,” explained Connelly.

Immune Homeostasis

When it comes to maintaining immune health, the goal shouldn’t be to overstimulate or oversuppress the immune system, according to one company. At SupplySide West, Qi Jia, PhD, president and CEO of Unigen Inc. (Tacoma, WA), discussed how his company’s UP360 ingredient—comprising polysaccharides and polyphenols standardized from aloe, poria mushroom, and rosemary—supports the immune system while also maintaining immune system “homeostasis.”

“You want to maintain a homeostasis of immunity in which your body is ready to be alert but is not always super alert,” Jia said. “You don’t want to suppress your immune responses. You don’t want to suppress cytokines, because cytokines are the initiation of the immune response. It’s the initiation of antibody production.” Furthermore, he said, immune stimulation, which some ingredients purport to do, isn’t always good.

He added: “I think the concept in our industry should change from stimulating or suppressing."

Jia discussed preclinical and clinical data showing how, in an accelerated aging model, UP360 was able to increase innate and acquired immunity. One of those trials was a triple-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical study conducted by contract research organization KGK Science (Canada) in which subjects were given 500 mg of UP360 twice daily for 28 days, then given a flu vaccine, then tested 28 days after the vaccine injection. Jia said results showed “specifically fractions of T cell, called gamma delta T cells, significantly increased before and after supplementation, and also before and after the vaccination, compared to the placebo group.”

He continued: “What’s so special about this gamma delta T cell is that this small fraction of T cell is very specifically distributed into epithelial cells and into mucosal membrane that coats your upper respiratory system…So that protection that’s all the gamma delta T cell is similar to native, innate immune response because it can directly neutralize the antigen, and it can also recognize antigen effects on the cells and can destroy those infected cells, too. So, your antigen will no longer be replicated in the cells.” It also helps activate specific cytokines so that regular T cells and B cells can produce more antibodies, and it passes on information about an antigen invasion downstream to adaptive immune cells, he said.

“So,” he concluded, “it plays a pretty big role in the defense of your respiratory system.”

This year’s SupplySide West show was a soft launch for the ingredient, which Jia expects to launch fully at next March’s Natural Products Expo West trade show. He said the company’s investigations on the ingredient started well before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but after the pandemic’s start, “we wanted to look into whether it was possible that this ingredient can work for lung protection or immune protection.”

UP360, he said, helps provide immune support while maintaining the immune system’s homeostasis. For instance, he said, it does not cause a key protein like HMGB1 in the immune cell to “leak out,” which would otherwise be “alarming to the surrounding immune cell.” He said, “We found out that this composition can prevent or can manage this biomarker so it won’t be released. So, even the cells under oxidative stress can still perform because you don’t have this alarming turning-on causing all the panic…Your balance is still there.”

Building Colostrum Awareness in the Immune Health Market

Ingredient supplier PanTheryx (Phoenix, AZ) is making major moves to expand its bovine colostrum ingredient, ColostrumOne, in the immune health market. The company not only recently introduced new delivery forms of its ingredient for soft-chews and nutrition bars (it can even be used in kid-friendly formats like freeze-dried yogurt pieces), this year it also acquired the TruBiotics probiotic supplement brand from Bayer HealthCare, giving the firm an established consumer brand through which it can also introduce colostrum to the digestive health and immune health markets.

At the SupplySide West show, Mike Weiser, PhD, PanTheryx’s director of innovation, explained that colostrum can work hand in hand with probiotics to support immune and digestive health especially due to the bioactive components in colostrum, such as immunoglobulins.

“Colostrum can work really well with probiotics” to support the microbiome, he said. “They can work really well together. Things like the immunoglobulins [in colostrum] help set up the intestinal environment properly so probiotics can colonize.”

He added: “There’s also oligosaccharides [in colostrum] that are a lot like human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), but they’re actually cow milk oligosaccharides—so very similar in structure to human milk oligosaccharides—and those feed the probiotics and the beneficial bacteria in the body.”

Given that colostrum and probiotics are so complementary, “we also see in the future that the combination of the two, of colostrum and probiotics, can be very powerful,” he said. “So we’re now working on formulations with colostrum and probiotics for our customers who may be interested in that sort of synbiotic combination.”

Expect colostrum to command a greater presence in the market that’s currently dominated by probiotics, prebiotics, and increasingly even postbiotics, he said. “So, you hear a lot about prebiotics, you hear about postbiotics, and probiotics. Really, colostrum is—if you think about biotics—it’s something that impacts the well-being of another living system. It acts on the living system in some beneficial way. And so, with the prebiotic/postbiotic/probiotic, I think colostrum, by supporting, is also a biotic. It has a prebiotic component to it. It supports the growth of healthy bacteria and the intestines…It’s really untapped potential for immune and digestive health—and, really, overall health.”

With PanTheryx at the helm, Weiser expects to see exciting product launches coming out from the TruBiotics brand in the coming years.

In addition, at SupplySide West, the company introduced yet another innovative version of its ColostrumOne ingredient: a high-potency bovine colostrum ingredient called ColostrumOne Extra Strength.

“We’ve taken colostrum and enhanced its bioactivity, its bioavailability,” Weiser explained. “Colostrum has a lot of great bioactive proteins like immunoglobulins and lactoferrin, and what we’ve done is we have proprietary, patent-pending technology that we’ve applied to colostrum to protect it from the digestive process.”

He further explained: “So, when you consume the product, our functional proteins, it needs acid and enzymes in the stomach, and what we found is that in this new formulation, we were able to protect immunoglobulins, for example. So, two-fold more immunoglobulins made it through the digestive process, and what we saw was an ability of this ColostrumOne Extra Strength to have a two-fold-higher immune activation response. We looked at the binding to pathogenic bacteria, and after the digestive process, it had a two-fold-higher ability to protect against the pathogenic bacteria that were introduced.”

The company conducted a simulated digestion test to confirm these enhanced binding effects. It also observed via an in vivo model that ColostrumOne Extra Strength was three-fold more potent in protecting the intestinal wall from damage, including protecting villi structure.

Weiser said: “We’re really excited about this because it’s taking something that’s already great for immune and digestive health but really making it so that the bioactive proteins get to where they need to be and survive that digestive process.”

The company will still offer ColostrumOne in addition to the new ColostrumOne Extra Strength. Weiser said the choice is based on preference. “This is our version of a more bioavailable colostrum. Both are still really good, but this give you the option of delivering more of the bioactive components to the small intestine and the large intestine.” The patent-pending technology used to increase the ingredient’s bioavailability can also be used to increase bioavailability of other ingredients, but Weiser said that for now, PanTheryx will direct it at the company’s flagship colostrum portfolio. “It’s the only formulation like this on the market.”

Collagen…for Immune Health?

When you think collagen peptides, right off the bat, you think about its benefits for skin health, joint health, and healthy aging all around. But what about immune health? One collagen supplier, Gelita (Sergeant Bluff, IA), thinks immune health could be the next big market for collagen.

Why? Because by supporting elements like a healthy skin barrier and healthy bones, collagen in fact helps the body protect its immune front.

“If you have healthy skin, you’re preventing stuff from infiltrating your body, whether it’s through sores or cracks. Unhealthy skin is not good for immune health. It’s how many things enter our body,” explained Lara Niemann, director of marketing, the Americas, Gelita, at SupplySide West. “And then if you look at the role of bone health in immunity, the bones are a lot of where your immune system is modulated, regulated, and if you have healthy bones and strong osteoblasts [building] the cells of the bone, that also contributes to a positive immune health system.”

This year, the company announced its two new ingredients targeting immune health: Immupept 25 for the skin and Immupept 50 for the bones. Each ingredient’s peptide profile is optimized to its target and considers how the cells in the skin, for instance, respond differently than cells in the bone.

It’s a new way of thinking about collagen. And, in fact, Gelita had been exploring the potential of its collagen peptides to support immune health long before immune health became a hot topic during the COVID-19 pandemic, Niemann said. The company had long been studying the protective effects of collagen on the skin, and now, said Niemann, Immupept “is aligned with that beauty-from within story but now taking a different approach that’s related to immune health and not just beauty,” she said.

“It’s capitalizing on the benefits that are already associated with collagen,” she continued. “It’s kind of a secondary—‘Hey, did you know that an important part of immune health is skin health and bone health? And here are collagen peptides specifically optimized to do that, thereby improving your immune health system.'”

The company admits it will take more consumer and industry education to get people thinking of collagen in this light. Also, the company points out, Immupept ingredients can be used easily in combination with other ingredients in those markets. “We do see consumer products out there that are multi-positioned, right? Improve your immune health and improve your skin, or take care of your joint health and bone health,” Niemann said.

Immune Health and Food

Finally, as more consumers seek immune support, they are looking for functional ingredients in non-pill places, such as in food and drink. More ingredient suppliers continue expanding the delivery capabilities of their ingredients.

During SupplySide West, Penny Woods, marketing director for Kemin Nutrition and Health (Des Moines, IA), discussed the company’s new water-dispersible format of its BetaVia Pure ingredient for immune health, an algae beta-glucan clinically shown to “prime key immune cells.”

The ingredient’s new water-dispersible version makes it easier to formulate into products like beverages, while staying in solution. It also helps in the formulation of gummies. The ingredient, “a 95%-pure ingredient,” is also white and has low odor and flavor, making it versatile in many products, Woods said.