More Than A Gut Feeling: The Microbiome As A Gateway To Wellness

Friday, June 4th, 2021

As consumers become increasingly informed and holistic in their approach to overall health and wellness, brands should reflect this in their product development. Contributed by ADM

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed consumers’ perspectives on their health and wellness. Many are now taking a more holistic approach that considers the impact their metabolic, immune and mental health have on their overall wellbeing.

Alongside this, wellness-conscious consumers are becoming increasingly educated about the microbiome’s role in supporting their overall health needs. Previously sitting on the fringes of scientific research, there has now been more than 900 peer-reviewed scientific publications including the topic of microbiome and health published to date*, with much of this considering the microbiome’s links to these wider health areas.


The Power Of The Microbiome

The human microbiome generally concerns the complex communities of microorganisms living in and on our bodies. The gut microbiome specifically has links to impacting metabolic health and emotional wellbeing, as well as supporting the immune system by maintaining a robust intestinal barrier.

The growing body of scientific evidence has increased awareness about solutions that address microbiome concerns. Searches for ‘prebiotics’ and ‘gut biome’ have risen sharply since 2018, while the term ‘probiotic’ has been trending upward over the last five years*. The result: an increasingly wellness-conscious consumer base is also becoming more educated about the benefits of maintaining a healthy microbiome.

This has transformed the supplements market, with 64 percent of probiotics consumers using them to support their general health and wellbeing*. To make the most of this opportunity, providers must understand the latest consumer insights, clinical research and cutting-edge solutions.


Maintaining Metabolic Health

It’s not surprising that the pandemic has seen 22 percent of Asia-Pacific consumers become more concerned about their weight, compared to just 14 percent prior to COVID-19*. As numerous reports link obesity to poorer COVID outcomes, 47 percent of those wishing to boost their immunity are doing so by looking to lose weight*.

As emerging clinical research indicates that cultivating a more diverse microbiome could have benefits for maintaining a healthy weight, the importance of good metabolic health is gaining greater prominence. With 24 percent of Asia-Pacific consumers already taking supplements to aid weight management, and 21 percent saying they would be willing to spend more on supplements offering these benefits, manufacturers have an active and engaged audience for their solutions*.

This is reflected in a growing evidence base, with many researchers focusing on identifying pre-, pro- or post-biotic ingredients that could lead to positive results on the management of weight and weight-related conditions. In two clinical trials, ADM’s proprietary probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145 (BPL1) has shown positive effects on abdominal fat mass proportion (live BPL1 in Prader Willi children over 4.5 years of age), waist circumference (heat-treated BPL1), and Body Mass Index (live BPL1), with the latter two showing significant results in female participants*. ADM has also studied BPL1’s mechanism of action, identifying a molecule that promotes fat reduction in a pre-clinical model*.

Boosting The Immune System

Long before the pandemic, consumers were becoming increasingly aware of their immune system’s critical role in determining susceptibility to, and outcomes of, infectious diseases. In 2019, 47 percent of consumers globally—and 52 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents—had made changes to their diet and lifestyle in order to improve their immunity. By July 2020, 64 percent were reporting greater concern for their immune health due to COVID-19*, with 65 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents citing the same worries in 2021.

With 46 percent of consumers likely to seek out probiotics and cultures to support their immune health*, there is an opportunity for supplements producers to offer probiotics that meet this demand. In studies, ADM’s Lactobacillus rhamnosus CNCM I-4036 probiotic strain is shown to positively impact anti-inflammatory markers and inhibit pathogenic organisms*. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, volunteers showed a significantly increased CD4+/CD8+ ratio (the ratio of T helper to cytotoxic T cells, a common measurement of immune functionality) compared to baseline*.


Aiding Mental Wellbeing

Just as the close ties between the gut microbiome and other health areas have seen increased focus from clinical research, there is also a growing evidence base in support of its role in neuropsychiatric diagnoses. As almost half of consumers cited increased anxiety as a result of the pandemic and 24 percent said they had more frequent feelings of depression, non-medical solutions that can help maintain mental health have an opportunity to stand out on the market*.

Probiotics may be key to unlocking this opportunity. A placebo-controlled clinical trial examined the effects of a probiotic strain (Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001) on anxiety and depression. The trial found that patients given the probiotic strain showed lower depression scores on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale, compared to those given a placebo. While further research is needed, this is indicative of a significant role probiotics and the microbiome could play in benefitting mental wellbeing*.


Unlocking The Gateway To Holistic Health

With over half of supplement users citing scientific proof of efficacy as being very important to their purchasing decisions—and 33 percent of non-users indicating this would influence them to use supplements—there is a clear opportunity for manufacturers to create solutions with proven benefits*. 

As consumers become increasingly informed and holistic in their approach to overall health and wellness, brands should reflect this in their product development. By leading with an in-depth understanding of emerging consumer insights and scientific research—and partnering with experienced ingredient suppliers and formulation experts—brands can stay ahead of the curve. 


*References available upon request.


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