Second generation probiotics: ‘We’re only scratching the surface of knowledge’, says international expert.

By Gary Scattergood and Millette Burgos

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Nigel Plummer: 'We’re only just beginning to understand that our microbiome and probiotics have a complex and continuous cross-talk'.
Dr Nigel Plummer: 'We’re only just beginning to understand that our microbiome and probiotics have a complex and continuous cross-talk'.
The biggest challenge facing the probiotics sector is to spread the word of the potential gains “second generation” products can bring to a broader spectrum of health issues than just gut health.

According to international expert Dr Nigel Plummer, the considerable advances in probiotics, both in terms of scientific understanding and product stability over the past five years, show no sign of slowing,

“As the understanding grows that the microbiome affects numerous parts of our physiology and that probiotics are simply the most beneficial members of our microbiome, second generation probiotics are now targeting areas such as metabolic activity with potential indications for diabetes type 2 metabolic syndrome," ​he said.

"In addition, the gut brain axis has now become a major focus with evidence beginning to grow that probiotics can impact our neuro endocrine and psychological physiology with targets such as stress, anxiety, depression and cognitive function,” ​he told us.

“On a more applied basis we are now seeing probiotics coming into the marketplace with shelf stability of 18-24 months at ambient temperatures. Our knowledge of the parameter that effect stability of these living supplements has progressed strongly in the past five years before which it was impossible to maintain stability of probiotics without refrigeration.”

But it seems the challenge now facing scientists and industry is to effectively communicate these advances in Asia.

When asked about consumer understanding in Asia, he replied: "Some parts of the Asian community such as Korea with daily consumption of kimchi are perhaps subconsciously or potentially aware of the benefits of probiotics to intestinal health,”​ he said, before adding, “our understanding of the microbiome and probiotics indicate the effects may go far beyond the intestinal health with major impacts of probiotics on immune and endocrine function and this knowledge is new and exciting to everyone, globally.”

Based at the University of Surrey in the UK, Dr Plummer’s research team has published over 80 original scientific papers including eight human randomised controlled trials mainly on the microbiome and it’s manipulation with probiotics.

Immunity protection

Dr Plummer spoke to us while in the region to speak at APP on the Gold Coast, the largest pharmacy conference and trade show in Australia. He had been invited to speak by Blackmores, which recently unveiled its new range of fridge-free probiotics.

The products claim to support not only digestive health but also a range of other areas including immunity, bowel and skin health.

Being able to offer probiotic products ‘surviving’ in a variety of conditions was crucial to industry growth, added Dr Plummer.

“Stability is a big [trend] – such as the technology that is being developed to produce fridge-free probiotics. The burgeoning scientific evidence confirming the benefits of probiotics in a variety of conditions is also fueling an astonishing amount of global growth.”

But despite the advances made in recent years, Dr Plummer maintained that academics were only just beginning to understand the power of probiotics.

“Eighty per cent of our immune and endocrine (hormone) systems are concentrated in the intestine and so intestinal health is inextricably linked with immune, endocrine and neural health,”​ he said.

“We’re only just beginning to understand that our microbiome and probiotics have a complex and continuous cross-talk to these systems via the intestine (particularly in the small intestine). Specific probiotic strains can also help support particular therapeutic areas, for example the immune system.”

Probiota Asia 2017​ 

Probiota Asia 2017 Master logo

The Probiota series is growing, and in October 2017, Singapore will host the first ever Probiota Asia event. Building on the success of the annual global Probiota and Probiota Americas events, Probiota Asia will focus exclusively on this high growth market and the challenges it faces.

Save the date: 11-13 October 2017

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