Functional snacking: Morinaga Milk Industry banks on confectionery and snacks as promising formats for paraprobiotic strain
L. paracasei MCC1849 is a lactic acid bacterial strain isolated from the intestine of a healthy adult, that has been heat-killed and inactivated, and displays immune-modulatory effects.
It has been commercially available in Japan since 2014 and is currently used in various kinds of products including soups, tofu, and seasonings, where probiotics are traditionally difficult to incorporate.
The company is now eyeing the growing functional snacking trend to incorporate MCC1849 in products such as chocolate, candy, sweets, cookie, biscuits, baked goods, and popcorn, targeting the young adult population.
“Dietary supplements have been a good delivery format for probiotics and it still do the job well. However, increasingly, consumers show great interest in functional foods and beverages for health and wellness benefits,” said Chyn Boon Wong, research associate at Morinaga Milk Industry.
Wong told NutraIngredients-Asia: “A worldwide pandemic means health is top of mind, and as consumers’ health awareness is heightened, they will look for innovative functional food products that meet their health needs,”
“Functional snacking is gaining traction. Foods that contain functional ingredients such as paraprobiotics can turn a quick bite into a convenient way to get nutrition between meals or on the go.
“They are more nutritious than many typical snacks and may help consumers reach their health goals without abandoning their favorite confectionery or snacks. Consumers do not have trade their favorite treats for boring snacks just because they’re trying to stay healthy.”
In addition, “COVID-19 is keeping people at home which means more snacking. Therefore, many opportunities exist for us to incorporate LAC-Shield into confectionery and snacks.”
NutraIngredients-Asia researched and found some companies incorporating MCC1849 in their finished products include Asahi’s Goodday Cultured Milk, Asmara’s ginseng paraprobiotic powder, Killiney Café Au Lait, and Corniche’s Yoghurt Jelly with Nata De Coco.
Morinaga’s paraprobiotic strain is heat tolerant, highly stable to pH and other conditions, making it more versatile in food and beverage applications.
“MCC1849 retains its health benefits even after going through harsh manufacturing conditions, long product shelf life and stress during gastrointestinal transit,” Wong said.
In a recent paper published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, researchers discussed the feasibility of heat-killed probiotics for application in food products.
They stated that addition of live bacteria (probiotics) to products and processes can change the flavour and may shorten the product lifespan.
Heat-killed probiotics are sterile and can be used in any product regardless of food formulation or product lines. Contamination risk by live bacteria and flavour changes are also low.
Hence, paraprobiotic products are simpler and more convenient when compared to the probiotic products.
Paraprobiotics when administered in sufficient amounts, can still confer benefits to the consumer.
It could also be an alternative for people with weaker immune system where administration of live probiotics may be less appropriate.
For Morinaga’s MCC1849, several studies have reported its health benefits in immunity, respiratory health and mood.
In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2015, intake of MCC1849 improved responsiveness of vaccinations in the elderly as compared with the placebo group.
It was conducted on 42 elderly subjects aged 65 years or older who were either given a jelly containing 1 × 1010 heat-killed MCC1849 cells, or a placebo jelly, and told to consume once a day for six weeks.
Efficacy of vaccination tend to decrease in elderly populations because of reduced immune function associated with ageing.
All participants received influenza vaccination midway at week three.
At the end of the study, the MCC1849 group showed higher blood vaccine antigens, and improved antibody responses compared to the placebo.
Another randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind comparison study in healthy young adults, reported that heat-killed MCC1849 was effective in preventing common colds.
Published in the Beneficial Microbes journal in 2018, the study involved 241 healthy subjects over 18 years old.
Participants were randomised to receive either MCC1849 (10 billion or 30 billion cells) or placebo (dextrin) powder every day for 12 weeks.
Those administered MCC1849 had significantly reduced incidence of common cold, total duration, and severity of symptoms after 12 weeks.
Besides the immuno-modulatory effects of MCC1849, a randomised controlled study published in the Japanese Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2019 reported that elderly subjects had significant improvement in positive mood and quality of life after four weeks of taking MCC1849.
According to the earlier paper, MCC1849 is reported to induce high levels of interleukin-12 (IL-12). IL-12 is a cytokine released from antigen-presenting cells that acts on T cells to promote differentiation into Th1 cells and follicular helper T (Tfh) precursor cells.
Th1 cells activate various immune cells, including natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages, that are responsible for innate immunity and removing pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and infected cells.
This paper suggests that MCC1849 may be an effective tool for maintaining health in an ageing society, by improving immunity and mood, reducing risk of infection, and extending healthy life expectancy.
However, researchers also pointed out that human data evidence and mechanism of action surrounding heat-killed probiotic strains are often lacking.
Another issue is that guidelines and product standards for heat-killed probiotics have not been established.
“Therefore, a detailed review of beneficial properties of specific heat-killed probiotic strains is needed to inform appropriate heat-killed probiotic strain selection,” they wrote.
“If these problems are solved, more heat-killed probiotics can be expected to be introduced into a variety of foods.”
Morinaga Milk has several clinical studies in the pipeline for MCC1849.
MCC1849 received self-affirmed GRAS status for use in conventional food and beverage products in 2018.
Source: International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology
“Immuno-modulation by heat-killed Lacticaseibacillus paracasei MCC1849 and its application to food products”
Authors: Hazuki Maehata, et al.