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Probiotics & gut health

A market set for impressive growth

Fortune Business Insights reported in October 2019 that the global probiotics market size was valued at $42.55bn in 2017 and is projected to reach $74.69bn by the end of 2025, with a CAGR of 7.3% in the forecast period.

While consumers have become aware of the role of probiotics in the maintenance and improvement of general health and wellbeing, the rise of reported digestive disorders is also a major factor behind this growth.

Add to this the growing body of research that is now showing the use of specific strains for the immune system, feminine health, oral health, skin care, cognition and mental health (the gut-brain axis), weight management and diabetes, sports endurance and cardiovascular health.

A resulting increase in investment in R&D of gut health and the microbiome will certainly impact sales of probiotics along with other digestive supplements and functional foods. However, restrictions on making health claims remain the biggest hurdle to overcome before the full power of the sector can be unleashed.

Mapping the human microbiome

Scientists are building the world’s biggest database of the human microbiome. Launched at the International Conference on Genomics in China in October 2019, the five-year project will sequence and analyse a million microbial samples from intestines and other organs to create a microbiome map of the human body.

The scientists behind the project believe this will have a massive impact on therapies in many fields such as metabolic diseases, cancer, reproduction and newborn health. The Million Microbiome of Humans Project (MMHP) welcomes further exchange and cooperation and can be contacted at [email protected].

Are probiotics safe?

All common probiotic species are considered by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to be safe for the general population, but there’s a lack of guidance on the increasing use of probiotics in people with medical conditions. This is an important point made by ScienceDirect in an April 2019 report, ‘The Unregulated Probiotic Market’ which also notes that the term ‘probiotic’ is “not easily accepted by EFSA”.

The report says safety evaluation is needed for vulnerable groups including patients with damaged intestinal mucosa or immune dysregulation such as can occur in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, liver diseases, HIV, and other conditions.

In the EU, probiotics and food supplements are regulated under the Food Products Directive and Regulation and all health claims for probiotics must be authorised by EFSA which has issued a list of microbial cultures that have a Qualified Presumption of Safety and do not require safety assessments.

EFSA is also responsible for assessing health claims made for probiotic products and to date has rejected all submitted health claims. The report concludes that on the one hand there is rigorous scrutiny of product claims, but on the other hand there is little regulation of the manufacturing process and almost no post marketing regulatory follow-up.

New hope for IBS sufferers?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects around one in 10 adults, causing abdominal pain, bloating and bowel symptoms. Recent research using Bio-Kult’s 14-strain supplement showed significant improvement among sufferers with 34% symptom-free at the end of the trial. Pain and bloating were also considerably reduced.

Now the National Institute for Health Research is recruiting patients for a clinical trial, “Relieve-IBS-D”, using some of the latest research technologies to collect data and new information about diarrhoea-related IBS-D.

This trial will involve at least 400 patients aged 18-75 in 27 NHS GP and hospital sites across the country, with the primary objective to show the effectiveness of an oral intestinal adsorbent in treatment. Recruitment will be complete by the end of 2019.

Read the full report from at

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