Probiotics for menopause were a key focus for companies at SupplySide West.
Women’s health is gaining attention in the health, wellness, and supplements space. Menopause is a key segment of that market, and nutraceutical suppliers are ramping up research to explore how their ingredients can help women handle the effects of menopause and its symptoms.
Increasingly, probiotics are emerging as a promising class of natural ingredients for menopause support. During October’s SupplySide West trade show, two companies explained how they are strengthening their probiotics portfolios for the menopause market.
New Study on Probiotics for Menopause
Kaneka Probiotics (Pasadena, TX), also a major shareholder of probiotic developer AB-Biotics (Barcelona), promoted an exploratory study in menopausal women on the companies’ new proprietary probiotic blend targeting menopause support. According to Jordi Riera, chief business officer and head of the probiotics division at Kaneka Americas Holding Inc., this study, which has been submitted for publication, makes Kaneka Probiotics/AB-Biotics the only companies with a “probiotic that has [study] results in menopausal women specifically.”
The exploratory study was conducted in 100 subjects and examined the effect of the strain blend on hormone levels, Riera said at SupplySide West. He explained the mechanism of action of how this strain blend supports menopause.
During menopause, the body’s production of estrogen declines. The gastrointestinal tract also continues its process of eliminating estrogens in urine or feces. At the same time, certain microbiota can help regulate estrogen levels by secreting an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme can help deconjugate estrogens into their active form. According to Kaneka Probiotics/AB-Biotics, their new blend of bacteria over-expresses beta-glucuronidase. By supporting beta-glucuronidase and therefore estrogen levels in this way, the ingredient can help “flatten the slope” severity in terms of the negative physiological effects women experience as estrogen levels decline. As Riera noted, “All symptoms associated with menopause are connected to this decline of estrogens.”
According to Riera, the companies screened over 1000 bacterial strains to identify the three bacterial strains that over-express beta-glucuronidase.
Importantly, the exploratory study was conducted in menopausal women. This sets this probiotic ingredient apart in the menopause supplements market. Riera pointed out that rather than focusing only on alleviating negative menopause symptoms, this new bacterial blend focuses on the cause of symptoms, the balance of estrogens. “To our knowledge, so far there is no probiotic that has been applied to that estrogen-balance application,” he said. “We are really the first to market in that, and the advantage of this product is that probiotics are really safe and natural."
This new exploratory study also helps the companies explain why this ingredient blend addresses estrogen levels “to the level of the most basic science,” he added.
The fact that the companies continue planning to study the ingredient in menopausal women is also key, as ingredient studies in this population are generally lacking. Riera expressed the importance of ramping up clinical trial research in women, especially those experiencing menopause. “The gender bias in science is a hot topic and subject to revision and discussion, to be thought about by the scientific and medical community,” he said. It’s something “we all need to get better at,” he added, if the supplements industry wants to create better products for women’s health. “It’s difficult for me to understand why there are products that are promised to be women’s health products that are not tested in women primarily,” he said.
He concluded: “We’re the only company with a probiotic that has results in menopausal women specifically. Right now, the focus for the past couple of years has been women’s health. I think that connects to a market interest but also connects to the fact that for historical reasons, women’s health was something that was a little bit left behind in science. That’s something we detected years ago,” adding that the companies started its probiotic-menopause research “five years ago when nobody was taking much care about that.”
The ingredient will also help expand the scope of probiotics as an ingredient class in the menopause market, which currently is mainly dominated by ingredients like sterol-related ingredients or botanical combinations to address menopausal symptoms.
Labeling Menopause Products On-Shelf
IFF (New York City) also had menopause health in sight at SupplySide West. The company highlighted its new partnership with GenM, a UK-based group that has created a “menopause-friendly” icon that companies can add to their packaging to indicate that a product supports menopause health and to help shoppers identify menopause-supporting products on-shelf in stores.
At SupplySide West, Mark Rohde, global dietary supplement leader for IFF Health (Ridgefield, NJ), called the company’s partnership with GenM “exciting.”
IFF is now letting its customers know that they can develop menopause-friendly products and label them with the GenM icon. IFF is steering companies through this market by creating new product concepts that companies can consider using if they want to enter the menopause-products market. “We’re showcasing those and talking to customers about how GenM can further differentiate those concepts to the consumer,” Rohde said.
These product concepts—nine in all—feature combinations of IFF’s ingredients and can address multiple health concerns women face when dealing with menopause. “We’re trying to address the most high-level need states that a woman might have—so hot flashes, brain fog, mood, weight management, cognitive support, urinary health, vaginal health—spanning every way in which menopause may present itself,” said Rohde.
Many of the ingredient combinations blend probiotic and botanical ingredients, he said. “There are 48 different symptoms of menopause,” he added, “including weight management, urinary health, vaginal health, and gut-brain as well as stress management. So we’ve taken a look at those symptoms of menopause, and we have a vaginal-health probiotic combination. We have a weight-management probiotic. We have a probiotic for perceived stress as well. So we’re trying to take those benefit areas and direct them in menopause-specific concepts.”