‘Designer prebiotics’ are the future of food and microbiome modulation, says expert

By Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

istock | xuanhuongho
istock | xuanhuongho
‘Designer prebiotics’ have greater potential than probiotics to be able to modify our microbiomes and improve our long-term health, according to the founder and CEO of a trailblazing life science firm.

In the same week that his company’s CE marked weight management prebiotic supplement Slimbiome Medical hits the UK market, Stephen O’Hara, founder and CEO of Optibiotix Health plc, points out the huge potential for the current underdog of the microbiome health industry.

He told NutraIngredients: “We think prebiotics is the bigger opportunity for the future and that’s the area we are putting a lot of investment into.

“A probiotic is transient. It goes in the gut, it has billions of bacteria around it and its survival is short term.

“A prebiotic approach, giving foodstuff to the good bacteria and building it internally, will have a longer-term effect.”

He adds that, commercially, prebiotics can have a greater opportunity for impact on consumers’ diets due to the ability to incorporate them into a wider range of applications.

“Probiotics tend to have a limited shelf life and they aren’t heat stable so they can’t be added to any baked products, for example. Whereas prebiotics can be added to breads, yogurts, snack bars, you name it.

“Also, most manufacturers don’t want to introduce bacteria into their manufacturing facility making it hard to incorporate these into other food stuffs.”

Two thirds of Optibiotix’ new SlimBiome supplement is composed of prebiotics, which work to increase microbial diversity and increase growth of the specific bacteria associated with leanness.

But weight management is just one of number of potential targeted health benefits for ‘designer prebiotics’, says O’Hara.

“Currently people use prebiotics for a general health benefit but we are trying to demonstrate how it can be used for targeted health such as anxiety reduction, cardiovascular health and even cancer.

“Our R&D teams have used gut models to demonstrate the ability of our microbiome modulators ​to increase the growth rate, biological activity, and health effect, of specific microbial species in the human microbiome. 

“This has now been demonstrated in multiple species, including OptiBiotix’s cholesterol reducing strain (LPLDL​).  To our knowledge, this is the first time this effect has been demonstrated and creates the opportunity for designer prebiotics which can modulate targeted elements of the microbiome.”

He also argues that prebiotics for the elderly is one particularly opportune yet untapped area.

“Most prebiotics are consumed by infants through their milk as we understand the importance of helping build their microbiomes from an early age.

“It’s well established that people have a narrower microbial spectrum when they are very young and when they are very old.

“If we are ensuring to give babies prebiotics, why can’t we use them in the elderly population who will benefit massively.”

OptiBiotix product pipeline

SlimBiome Medical  is a CE marked Medical Device, and is one of a number of products commercialised by the UK-based firm to manage weight and cardiovascular risk in a series of microbiome-based products currently under development.

These include CardioBiome, shown to reduce total cholesterol by 22% in gut models, ImmunoBiome, designed to improve immune health and reduce allergy symptoms, and WellBiome, designed to improve cognitive health and reduce anxiety and stress related conditions.

OptiBiotix manufactures  SlimBiome in Europe with its partner Nutrlinea, and in India, with its partner Zeon, based on the outskirts of New Delhi. Both partners are in dustry leaders in their field and able to develop and manufacture customised formulations and presentations (spray dried and dry blended powders, syrups, capsules, tablets, sachets and diskettes) for the food, herbal, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical Industry.


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