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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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Experts debate pros, cons of mandatory product registry for dietary supplements

A veteran lawyer in Washington supports a requirement that companies register their dietary supplement product labels. The general idea—incorporated in legislation introduced in previous years on Capitol Hill—could lead to reform of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

“I really believe that this movement has picked up speed this year,” said Scott Bass, an attorney who heads the Global Sciences team at Sidley Austin LLP.

Based on his discussions with myriad groups, the lawyer revealed, the idea’s “time has come.” He said it was possible to see “activity on this front as early as the fourth quarter” of 2018.

“And I don’t mean activity in the sense of the law passed,” Bass acknowledged, “but I mean serious legislative attention.”

In an interview during an annual symposium in California for the dietary supplement industry hosted in October by the Council for Responsible Nutrition(CRN), Bass laid out his support for a mandatory product registry.

“Unless we have a system where FDA can say, ‘We know what’s on the market in the list’ [of registered products] and then can easily find out what is not on that list and can easily enforce, we’re not going to be able to stem the rising tide of illegal products,” he asserted. “There really is no choice because FDA can never enforce against outliers unless they know what’s on the market legitimately.”

Added Bass: “Second, how can a company offer a product to consumers that is supposedly a health product and then say, ‘But I don’t want the government to know about it.’ It just makes no sense.”

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FDA’s new nutrition label regulation for fat-soluble vitamins

The international unit (IU) has been used to measure fat-soluble vitamins—vitamin A, D and E—for decades. The IU is an arbitrary amount based on the amount of a given nutrient needed to produce a biological effect. Different than milligram or microgram, the IU measurement describes something that we cannot see; the potency or biological activity of a product. While IU seemed to be an innovative idea during the time it was introduced, many would agree that this IU system is now outdated.

In the new regulation for the nutrition facts label, FDA is replacing the unit “IU” for vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E with the metric unit. The unit for vitamin A will be changed to micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (mcg RAE), milligram of alpha-tocopherol (mg) for vitamin E while Vitamin D will be changed to microgram, while the IU reading for Vitamin D could be displayed in parentheses. This regulation will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 for companies with US$10 million or more in annual sales; and Jan 1, 2021 for companies with less than $10 million in annual sales. It is expected that other countries will follow this new regulation as well to standardize the labelling system. This new supplement/ nutrition facts label hopefully will help consumers to make a better decision in terms of choosing the right vitamin A and vitamin E for their daily consumption.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential vitamin for healthy vision and cellular communication. There are two main ways to obtain vitamin A in the diet, through:

(1)         retinols from animal sources and dairy products;

(2)         pro-vitamin A carotenoid from plant.

Both retinols and pro-vitamin A carotenoid are metabolized in the body into the active form of vitamin A, retinoic acid. However, retinols and pro-vitamin A carotenoid differ in their bioactivities. As an example, it takes different amount of IU from retinol, beta-carotene from food, beta-carotene from supplement or alpha-carotene to make 1 microgram of retinoic acid.

Therefore, it is vital for consumers to check the source and forms of vitamin A to ensure they get sufficient vitamin A according to the recommended dietary intake (RDI). The RDI of the vitamin A has also changed from 5,000 IU (equivalent to 1,500 mcg RAE) to 900 mcg RAE for males and 700 mcg RAE for females respectively.

The conversion of unit of vitamin A from IU to the metric unit, mcg RAE, will take into account the differences in vitamin A activity between retinols and pro-vitamin A carotenoid. In the new unit, 1 RAE will equal to 1 mcg retinol, 12 mcg beta-carotene, 24 mcg alpha-carotene or 24 mcg beta-cryptoxanthin. Hence, the change of IU to mcg RAE for vitamin A is welcomed as this will reflect the actual or reality of vitamin A activity of its different forms—retinol and pro-vitamin A carotenoid.

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Probiotics provide a competitive edge in sports nutrition

The gut flora performs a variety of functions that are important for health. In fact, 70 percent of the body’s immune cells are located in the digestive tract, making gut health critical to overall health. A healthy and well-balanced gut flora facilitates digestion, protects against pathogens, provides vitamins and nutrients, and helps form the immune system. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, optimizing digestion and immunity are major factors as they strive to improve performance. As research advances, probiotics will play a leading role in shaping the sports nutrition supplements of tomorrow.

Athletes and active individuals have high nutrient needs, which are best met when digestion is well-functioning. Healthy bacteria in the gut aid in the digestion of macronutrients, allowing for optimized nutrient uptake from an athlete’s diet. They also aid in the digestion of macronutrients, allowing for optimized nutrient uptake from the diet. Some probiotic strains can play a role in the use of protein for muscle growth and human recovery by promoting the absorption of key amino acids. Being able to absorb more of the amino acids from protein can help increase muscle growth. In addition, probiotics can support immune health by adhering to the gut epithelium, thereby enhancing the “gut barrier” function of those cells by preventing the adhesion of pathogens.

Working out is all about breaking down and rebuilding muscles to become stronger and faster. With such activity, inflammation and free radical production are normal, expected and necessary—but the body’s response to these reactions will determine how quickly an athlete can recover and get back to his or her regimen. The two main areas of focus while doing strenuous activity are providing the right nutrients to build muscle (protein) and recovery (reduced inflammation). Probiotics can help in both of those areas; for example, the strain Bacillus subtilis DE111® (from Deerland) produces many enzymes to help break down protein, and recent research supported its role in reducing markers of inflammatory compounds that arise during exercise (Sports. 2018;6[3]:70).

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), there are more than 480,000 NCAA student athletes who compete in 24 sports every year. And of course, this is only a slice of the physical-competition pie. Add professional sports, athletic trainers and serious fitness enthusiasts like marathoners and cyclists, and the number of individuals who could benefit from probiotic supplementation is significantly higher.

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Sugar reduction in sports nutrition applications

The sports nutrition market continues to see steady growth. Athletes and mainstream users, including exercisers and those leading active lifestyles, are looking for products that support their recreational and lifestyle-driven performance. Both men and women seek sports nutrition products to help improve their nutritional intake, general health, well-being, performance, and muscle growth and recovery from exercise. The success of sports nutrition products requires meeting consumer demand with formulations they can trust and rely on, while also delivering on taste. Whether protein powders or bars, gummies, chews, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, pre-workout enhancers or post-workout enhancers, flavor and sweetness must meet consumer expectations.

Clean label and free-from claims

Many active consumers are looking for clean label products, including those with no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, and other “free-from” claims. There is a clear shift toward plant-based, natural, sugar-free and less-added-sugar products. Sugar reduction innovation is at an all-time high, and there is tremendous demand for sweeteners that allow for 100 percent sugar replacement—and are also natural and taste good. However, consumer preference for sweetness is still strong, too. Sports nutrition product manufacturers are actively seeking ways to successfully achieve low sugar content while delivering on good taste, texture and overall appeal.

Natural, plant-based sweeteners

The demand for sugar reduction and product purity has brought much attention to natural and plant-based sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit. Stevia has led the natural high-intensity sweetener market, and demand has grown exponentially since its approval and introduction. Monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, is quickly rising in popularity. Many sports nutrition brands are recognizing the benefits of incorporating monk fruit into products and formulations, and it is garnering attention as a sugar alternative. The sweetness of monk fruit comes from components called mogrosides found in the flesh of the fruit. Monk fruit is a no-calorie, natural sweetener with a glycemic index of zero that provides a well-rounded, fruity taste profile, and allows for an added “fruit-based” claim.

Finding the sweet spot

Formulating sports nutrition products that meet these needs may require manufacturers to address significant technical challenges. Reducing sugar content can impact not only sweetness, but also texture, color and the overall taste experience. While athletes and other sports nutrition consumers are looking for healthier alternatives and less sugar, they are also not willing to give up taste. Mintel reported taste is the most important product attribute to consumers. For this reason, reducing sugar in sports nutrition products cannot be done at the expense of flavor and familiarity.

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Global Dietary Supplements Market is Expected to Reach around $220.3 bn in 2022

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Dietary ingredients ensnared in U.S.-China trade war

President Trump’s trade war with China is set to impact many dietary ingredients, with additional 10 to 25 percent import duties on a range of products from minerals to proteins and sweeteners sourced from China.

IngredientsOnline.com, which connects U.S. and other manufacturers and vendors to ingredient suppliers from around the world, including China, has compiled a list of more than 180 potentially affected ingredients in the company’s supply chain, including choline, creatine, xylitol, animal and plant proteins, ribose, phytosterols, hemp seeds and various forms of minerals and amino acids.

“With boots on the ground in China, our teams in Shanghai have identified this list of ingredients that are on the HTS [U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule] Code as ‘potentials’ for the additional duty fees that will start at 10 percent,” said Peggy Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing for ingredientsonline.com. “Keep in mind this is just the beginning; we’re hearing the tariffs can range from 10 percent to 25 percent. It’s obvious this will have a tremendous effect on not only the industry but on consumers as well.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has been working on this issue since Trump released the first tariffs in May and has received lists from its members, sometimes including 30 to 40 or more ingredients potentially affected by the tariffs.

“The cost of sourcing raw material is going to go up in all these cases,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN. “Sometimes it’s the finished ingredient; in other cases, it’s the excipients or fillers and similar compounds. Each one incrementally increases the cost of goods, the cost to make the products.”

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