Digestive health gaining importance in nutraceutical industry

Wednesday, 07 February, 2018

Digestive health gaining importance in nutraceutical industry

Consumers are favouring healthier diets and lifestyles, which has been fuelled by the expanding research on healthy gut microbiota and probiotics. This explains why a survey of 220 nutraceutical industry professionals revealed that digestive health is one of their top priorities.

After asking professionals to choose the three most important health benefit areas for their companies, the organisers of global nutraceutical event Vitafoods Europe found that 23% identified digestive health, general wellbeing and healthy ageing as their main concerns. This was followed closely by cardiovascular health at 22% and immunity at 21%.

This is the first year that digestive health has topped the agenda, which could be indicative of the developing probiotic industry, predicted to be worth €53 billion (AU$83 billion) by 2023.

The executive director of the International Probiotics Association Europe, Rosanna Pecere, explained: “The rapid growth of the global probiotics market is due to increased interest in functional foods, as well as rising incidence of digestive and gastrointestinal disorders. Consumers are becoming more aware that a well-balanced microbiota is essential for the normal functioning of the body, and they’re looking for ways to ensure that the correct balance is maintained.”

Health trends have been on the rise and the younger generations are particularly interested in healthy living, according to Dr Yiannis Kourkoutas of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Democritus University of Thrace.

The gut microbiome has been a largely unknown concept, but as more scientific evidence is conducted, it is becoming clearer that maintaining a healthy gut is responsible for ensuring overall wellbeing.

“There is a large body of evidence supporting the concept that the maintenance of healthy gut microbiota provides protection against a range of problems — not just local gastro-intestinal disorders, but also neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular and even mental illnesses,” said Dr Kourkoutas.

This is where probiotics come into play, and Dr Kourkoutas continues by explaining their potential health benefits.

“The role of probiotics is unique in the development of healthy digestive function. Daily intake of dietary products fortified with probiotic cultures may stimulate the growth of preferred microorganisms, crowd out harmful bacteria and reinforce the body’s natural defence mechanisms. Probiotics can be exploited to manipulate the gut microbiota with beneficial effects for health, including reduced symptoms of lactose intolerance and lower risk of certain cancers.”

Although some companies remain divided on whether to introduce specific bacteria strains when marketing probiotics to consumers, Vitafoods Insights suggests that consumers are increasingly looking for personalised experiences. Helping consumers understand the health benefits of different strains and developing condition-specific products could be the way forward.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/JanaBlašková

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