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Fibre - Digestive health benefits; food for stress relief
Wednesday, 18 March, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Stephanie Mattucci
Fibre is recognised by consumers as a “good-for-you” ingredient and is commonly associated with digestive health benefits. A new study linking a certain prebiotic with anti-anxiety benefits could make prebiotics an ingredient for mental health as well as for digestive health. Stressed consumers would benefit from products that can help them tackle their daily stressors.

Fibre could havebenefits outside of digestive health
Fibre has long been recognised for its digestive health benefits. Other benefits of fibre include reducing the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Prebiotic fibres, like fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin, have the additional benefit of being able to selectively stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. Second generation prebiotics not only promote the growth of probiotic bacteria but also contribute a functional benefit to the host as well.

A new study has found that certain prebiotics may have additional benefits for mental health. In a recent study published in Psychopharmacology, researchers at the University of Oxford discovered that subjects who received Bimuno-galactooligosaccharides (B-GOS), a second generation prebiotic, daily for three weeks had lower cortisol levels than subjects who were given FOS or a placebo. The researchers concluded that B-GOS may be able to help inhibit anxiety and therefore reduces stress reactivity in healthy subjects.

B-GOS, which is a patented prebiotic manufactured by Clasado Biosciences Ltd is a galactooligosaccharide mixture that has been produced from lactose with enzymes from the probiotic Bifidobacterium bifidum NCIMB 41171 to enhance its functionality. Previous studies have also found that B-GOS may reduce inflammation and protect the digestive tract by improving the barrier function in the gut by directly interacting with the immune system.

As consumers struggle to achieve a positive balance in their life, functional foods that promote mental health are appearing on the market. Although still in early stages, second generation prebiotics could join the ranks of other moods foods, such as GABA rice, tryptophan, and tea.

Recent food and drink launches to reduce stress and anxiety
Zero-G Dalia-Replacer Cracked Sorghum (India)
 According to the manufacturer, cracked sorghum grains are excellent for managing or treating health conditions such as anxiety, fatigue and others.

Nature’s Way Super Cacao Organic Powder (Australia)
A nutritious superfood powder that contains tryptophan, which is said by the manufacturer to help promote an overall happy feeling.

Brooklyn Kava Pineapple Elixir (USA)
A mood-elevating juice beverage made with kava kava to help fight stress and anxiety. Other ingredients, such as pineapple, cucumber, coconut water, mint, and ginger are said to elevate the mood.

Sushma Khadi Desi Aahar Finger Millet Flour (India)
According to the manufacturer, millet flour is said to help the body relax naturally and is beneficial for those with anxiety, depression and insomnia.

O’Farm Organic Germinated Brown Rice (Hong Kong)
A germinated brown rice that contains high levels of GABA. According to the manufacturer, GABA can facilitate brain’s blood circulation and metabolism to relieve stress effectively.

Regulating your mood
Although the majority of consumers are interested in treating their non-life threatening medical condition or illness with medication, there is also interest in dietary changes as well. In the US, four in 10 consumers would be interested in either making changes to their diet plan or consuming functional food and beverages to treat their condition, according to Pharmaceuticals: The Consumer - US, July 2014. With this preliminary study demonstrating the mood improving benefits of prebiotics, prebiotics could move into more mood food products. (See Figure 1)

Although prebiotics are not the most glamourous of superfoods, consumers are familiar with their benefits and often turn to fibre to improve their digestive health. In the US, 32% of people who have experienced gastrointestinal (GI) ailments agree that they have added more fibre-rich foods to their diet to manage their digestive health, according to Gastrointestinal Remedies – US, July 2014. Consumers look for fibre for other reasons as well. According to Diet Trends – US, November 2014, 42% of US adults buy high fibre foods when watching their diet.

As fibre is already well-known as a “good-for-you” ingredient by many consumers, prebiotics as a mood food could be appealing. However, as the science on the gut-brain connection and the human microbiome is still in early stages, it will take time before this concept is familiar to most consumers.

Consumers need help managing stress
Previous research has demonstrated that the microbiome affects many areas of health. Studies have found a direct link between the composition of gut bacteria and the incidence of obesity-related conditions. Other studies have indicated that a disrupted crosstalk between microbes in the gut and other cells may impact other systems and metabolic processes.

The implication of prebiotics on the gut-brain connection could be substantial. Persistent stress can negatively affect health, manifesting in a number of stress-related conditions and affects various systems throughout the body. Unfortunately, stress continues to be problematic for many. In Canada, 47% of consumers agree they feel particularly stressed once or more a week while 39% of consumers in the UK have felt particularly stressed, according to Healthy Lifestyles – Canada, July 2014 and Healthy Lifestyles – UK, July 2014.

Consequently, products that aim to reduce stress are appealing to consumers. For example, 67% of US consumers who use scented items are interested in fragrances that influence their mood or relieve stress, according to Fragrances – US, August 2014. Additionally, 63% of US women find a positive mental state strongly contributes to a healthy life, making the need to reduce stress and anxiety important, according to Marketing Health to Women – US, October 2013. In fact, 54% of US women consider stress management strongly contributes to a healthy life.

Stress-relief products across categories use a wide range of ingredients

Aveeno Active Naturals Stress Relief Moisturising Lotion (Peru)
A lotion with calming scents of lavender, chamomile, and ylang- ylang oils for stress relief.

Coffee Blenders Escape Dark Roast + Stress Relief Coffee (USA)
Single-serve coffee pods suitable for Keurig brewers that contains 100% Arabica coffee and L-Tea active (L-theanine), which is a safe ingredient proven to naturally reduce stress without feeling drowsy.
Bach Rescue Natural Stress Relief Gum (USA)

A homeopathic medicine gum designed to relieve occasional stress. This product features an orange and elderflower flavoured liquid centre containing four drops of Rescue remedy, which is said to give courage, focus, patience, and mental balance.

Eyeko Hydrogel Eye Patch (Germany)
An anti-stress, anti-fatigue eye batch that contains ingredients such as vitamin B3, fruit extracts, hyaluronic acid, and tiger lily to instantly illuminate and hydrate skin under eyes.

Natural Shark Shark Skin and Meat Dog Treat (South Korea)
A dog treat that has been formulated with Omega-3 fatty acids and collagen to help relieve stress and to improve both the physical and mental health of dogs.

The analyst's view
  •     This preliminary study illustrates the potential of second generation prebiotics to be tailored for specific health needs, improving the credibility of functional foods.
  •      In order for prebiotics to be successful as a mood food ingredient, second generation prebiotics will need to be validated by scientific studies and consumers will need to be educated on the gut-brain connection.
  •     Products designed to reduce stress, which can lead to numerous health problems over time, will become more appealing as wellness and preventative care become more important in consumers’ lives.

(The author is global food science analyst at Mintel)
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