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Probiotics for improving mental health

The microbes in the gut produce neuroactive compounds that connect to the brain, affecting behavior and mood. There are more than 100 million neurons in the gut—nerve cells, which are normally perceived as brain cells. In fact, the gut is sometimes called the little brain because it is the largest area of nerves outside the brain.

An increasing number of studies link gut health to mood and mental health. In a four-week probiotics study, compared with participants who received a placebo intervention, participants who received probiotics showed a significantly reduced overall cognitive reaction to sad mood, which was largely accounted for by reduced rumination and aggressive thoughts, resulting in evidence that probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood (Brain Behav Immun. 2015 Aug;48:258-64).

Research involving 15 human studies discovered patients who supplemented with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains for one to two months experienced improvements in anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder and memory, including spatial and non-spatial memory, showing the efficacy of probiotics on central nervous system function (J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016 Oct 30;22(4):589-605).

In a study of 40 patients with depression, individuals who took probiotic supplements also reaped benefits. Taking probiotic supplements for eight weeks decreased depression levels and reduced levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and hormones such as insulin, compared to people who did not take a probiotic (Nutrition. 2016 Mar;32(3):315-20). After the eight-week intervention, patients who received probiotic supplements had significantly decreased Beck Depression Inventory total scores.

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Trends in digestive health

Digestive health has become increasingly important. Yes, it’s on-trend, but why is it really so important? Because it’s all about the “gut.” Martha Carlin, CEO of The Biocollective Research, is one of many people doing important work related to the gut. She became interested in the topic after reading Martin Blazer’s book Missing Microbes. In a recent episode of the Business Leaders Podcast, Carlin said, “For people who don’t know what the human microbiome is, that’s the trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea that live in and on our body. We’re actually more microbial than we are human.”

Carlin isn’t alone; even Hippocrates acknowledged: “All disease begins in the gut.” 

As product developers continue to incorporate functional attributes to address consumer need states related to gastrointestinal (GI) health, a good place to start is with a combination of probiotics and prebiotics, a positive synergy referred to as synbiotics. Probiotics gained recognition in recent years with the growing popularity of foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. Probiotics add healthy bacteria into the body, while prebiotics feed the healthy organisms in the gut.

Product development trends over the last five to six years have focused on—or even obsessed over—probiotics, with less emphasis on prebiotics. However, both are needed for optimal health. Obtaining effective probiotics strains and adequate prebiotics via diet to improve GI health isn’t easy; in order to have healthy gut, supplementation with both is often advised.

Roughly one-fourth of U.S. adults seek foods and beverages with high amounts of probiotics or prebiotics, according to a 2017 national consumer survey conducted by Packaged Facts. The interest is spurring innovation in the food and beverage industry.

The future mission of product developers is to focus on effectively formulating with both prebiotics and probiotics. It is important for the long-term progression of digestive health to incorporate the synbiotic approach. It will take into account solutions based on the total body, focusing on introducing products that can effectively address areas like immune system, gut health and overall well-being.

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Researched ingredients with anti-inflammatory effects

• Short-term inflammation is a protective response, but chronic inflammation can have a negative effect on the human body.

• Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), Terminalia chebula, grape seed extract and magnolia are among the options for formulators.

• The anti-inflammatory market is projected to reach US$130.6 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 8.5 percent from 2018 to 2026.

Inflammation is one of the body’s natural defense mechanisms, addressing hazardous stimuli such as tissue damage or allergens. On a short-term basis, inflammation can help the body return to a healthy state. However, according to a 2016 review, “Uncontrolled inflammatory response is the main cause of a vast continuum of disorders including allergies, cardiovascular dysfunctions, metabolic syndrome, cancer and autoimmune diseases.”1

While various pharmaceuticals are available to help control and suppress inflammatory crisis, the potential for side effects and the desire for a natural course of action lead many consumers to seek alternative solutions. The review noted several herbs with anti-inflammatory effects that have been evaluated in clinical and experimental studies, including Curcuma longa (curcumin), Zingiber officinale (ginger), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary), Borago officinalis (borage), evening primrose and devil’s claw. It also mentioned, “the treatment of inflammation is not a one-dimensional remedy,” and therefore, suggested “a multidimensional therapeutic approach to inflammation with the help of herbal medicine and modification in lifestyle.”

Blake Ebersole, president of NaturPro Scientific, pointed to palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) as an emerging anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s been studied in large trials in Europe. It’s a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPAR-α) ligand that exerts anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective actions.2 A 2014 review noted PEA was first identified as an anti-inflammatory compound more than half a century ago, but greater exploration didn’t occur until the mid-1990s. PEA was shown to reduce tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in lipopolysaccharide (LPS, a pro-inflammatory endotoxin)-induced pulmonary inflammation in mice, as well as mast cell degranulation and edema formation in various inflammatory models.3

The review mentioned more recent investigation of the anti-inflammatory mechanisms. PEA inhibited phosphorylation of kinases involved in activation of pro-inflammatory pathways, and the nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-κβ) and activator protein 1 (AP-1), as well as preventing degradation of the inhibitory IκB-α, which when associated to NF-κβ prevents its nuclear translocation.4,5

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ISIC report points to life-extending potential of caffeine and coffee

A new round table report has suggested that coffee consumption can lead to a reduced risk of death with a collective of studies indicating a potential risk reduction of up to 17%.

The finding is one taken from a number of studies available within the report complied by the institute for scientific information on Coffee in which featured evidence points to coffees nutritional make up as beneficial to health.

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AKA says it can see signs that government position on kratom is evolving

Kratom advocates say they can see cracks developing in the wall the federal government has tried to build around access to this botanical.

The American Kratom Association sent out a communication in which it claimed that the National Institute of Drug Abuse had changed its tune on the safety of the botanical. According to AKA, a NIDA webpage associated with the botanical has recently changed its wording to “Kratom by itself is not associated with fatal overdose”.

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