Japan focus: The top 10 most read stories on Japan’s nutrition sector in 2021

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The top 10 most read stories on Japan’s nutrition sector in 2021 ©Getty Images
The top 10 most read stories on Japan’s nutrition sector in 2021 ©Getty Images

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Read our top 10 most viewed Japan health and nutrition stories this year, featuring COVID-19 clinical trials, innovations in cognitive health, and the growing Food with Functional Claims industry.

1. Japanese beta glucan supplement clinically studied as an adjunct treatment for COVID-19 in India

A Japanese beta glucan food supplement had been studied as an adjunct treatment for COVID-19 patients in a clinical trial in India.

The supplement, Nichi Glucan, manufactured and distributed by Japan-based GN Corporation​, is typically consumed for maintaining overall health and immunity.

Nichi Glucan is derived from Aureobasidium​ (black yeast). It contains beta-D-glucans which are the active compounds found in the cell walls of yeast, fungi and seaweed.

Beta-D-glucans also known as biological response modifier glucans (BRMGs), they have been well documented in animal and human studies for improving insulin sensitivity, increasing satiety, and reducing cholesterol serum levels.

2. COVID-19 and beta glucans: Pilot study on how two strains can help control biomarkers of clinical severity

A pilot study​ in India had reported that intake of two strains of beta glucans can lower cytokine storm and coagulopathy biomarkers in COVID-19 patients.

The mild symptoms of COVID-19 involve fever, cough or runny nose, but cytokine storm and coagulopathy have been linked to the onset of severe cases of COVID-19 which required oxygen, ventilation and may led to organ failure and death. Patients with co-morbidities are prone to a rapid progression of the disease.

Cytokine storm is identified by the increase in biomarkers such as IL6, C-reactive protein (CRP), the neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (NLR), and the decrease of lymphocyte to CRP ratio (LCR) and the leukocyte-CRP ratio (LeCR).

In this study, they studied the effect of two strains of beta-glucans, produced by Aureobasidium pullulans​ (AFO-202 and N-163 strains) as an alternative adjunct treatment in patients with COVID-19, provided by Japan-based firm GN Corporation.

 3. Gut-brain interaction: Yakult expands sales of sleep and stress relief probiotic drink across Japan

Yakult Honsha have expanded sales of its Yakult 1000 product​ – a probiotic drink containing its proprietary Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota and formulated to relive stress and improve sleep across the whole of Japan.

First launched in October 2019 in Tokyo and the six other prefectures of the Kanto region, Yakult 1000 started retailing nationwide in April, through the main sales channel of home delivery by Yakult Ladies.

According to Hideki Maruyama from Yakult Honsha’s public relations department, the company had set a target of selling 1.1 million bottles of Yakult 1000 daily.

Yakult’s Q3 2020 performance reported that the company sold more than seven million bottles of its fermented milk beverages daily, an increase of 4% from Q3 2019.

4. Special seven: Ajinomoto study showed amino acid supplementation improved cognitive function in older people

Ingestion of seven essential amino acids improved cognitive and psychosocial functions in healthy older persons, according to a study by Ajinomoto​.

The seven essential amino acids were leucine, phenylalanine, lysine, isoleucine, histidine, valine, and tryptophan.

The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial showed that participants who consumed 6g of these amino acids significantly improved their cognitive function and social interaction than the placebo group, which is expected in preventing cognitive decline.

For a rapidly ageing country like Japan, decline in cognitive function has become a major social issue.

5. Functional foods in Japan exclusive 1: Record number of FFC notifications in 2020 with beverage-formats on the rise

A record number of 1,067 products were notified under the Foods with Function Claims (FFC) system in Japan from April 2020 to March 2021, exclusive new data​ shared with NutraIngredients-Asia revealed.

This was the highest number of products in a single year since the system launched on April 1, 2015. There were 3,602 FFC products in total excluding products that have been withdrawn.

This was according to a report ‘FFC product analysis for fiscal 2020’​ published by Smooth Link, a Japanese consultancy firm specialising in life sciences.

The FFC system is a notification system in which food manufacturers must meet specific criteria, indicating their products have a specific effect on health, but cannot reduce the risk of any diseases.

6. Tablet preservation tech: FANCL launched chewable immunity supplement using new innovation

FANCL launched a new immune supplement that used technology to protect tablets​ from premature disintegration during the production and storage process.

The technology was used in the chewable tablet supplement, known as Meneki Support (Immunity Support), Toshihiro Tomita from the public relations department, FANCL told NutraIngredients-Asia.

The technology, which the company spent about a year developing, can be applied to delivering a wide range of nutrients in the chewable tablet form, Tomita said.

“Chewable tablets which disintegrate as soon as they are put in the mouth and can be eaten without water, are used in sweets and supplements as a formulation that can be easily ingested not only by adults but also by children. 

7. Brain juice: Kirin rolled out new memory support functional foods and supplement with Japan health claims

Kirin Group have rolled out four functional foods and dietary supplements​ containing its proprietary ingredient beta-lactolin (β-lactolin) to support memory health.

Kirin claimed it is the first company in the world to discover β-lactolin, a whey protein-derived peptide to support cognitive health, and incorporate it into functional foods and supplements.

Among the products was a functional yoghurt (Kiokukea Yoghurt β-Lactolin) developed in collaboration with Japanese dairy company, Megmilk Snow Brand.

This was in addition to three other products, including a supplement its subsidiary Kyowa Hakko (Kyowa Hakko Bio β-lactolin),a milk beverage (Kirin β-lactolin) by Kirin Beverage, as well as a milk drink (Koiwai β-lactolin milk) from Koiwai Dairy Products Company, which is owned by Kirin Beverage).

8. Yakult’s plastic ambitions: Probiotic giant devised new sustainability strategy for packaging, carbon and water use

Yakult detailed its plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions​ by 2050 through its newly established Environmental Vision 2050, which will also include efforts to reduce plastic packaging by 30% by 2030.

The maker of probiotic cultured milk drinks had established targets for reducing greenhouse gas emission, plastic containers and packaging, as well as water usage across its entire value chain from R&D, procurement, production, logistics, sales and consumption.

Yakult Group sells its products in 40 countries, and about 40.15 million bottles of dairy products are consumed worldwide everyday.

Globally across all its production plants, it used 6.085 million m3​ of water annually. 

9. Cognitive boost: Morinaga Milk Industry unveiled functional food series containing clinically studied probiotic to improve memory

Morinaga Milk Industry launched a new functional food series​ containing its clinically studied probiotic strain to improve memory functions in older adults.

The first products released under the Bifidobacterium Memory series were a yoghurt drink and a supplement.

Both contained the clinically studied probiotic strain Bifidobacterium breve​ A1 (B. breve​ MCC1274).

In the study​, older adults (50 to 79 years old) who suffer from mild cognitive impairment were administered with MCC1274 (2 x 1010 ​CFU). After 16 weeks, there was significant improvements in immediate and delayed memory compared to the placebo group.

10. Functional foods in Japan exclusive 2: GABA, black ginger, indigestible dextrin most popular ingredients, weight and blood sugar claims top chart

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), black ginger and indigestible dextrin were the top three most popular ingredients​ used in products notified under Japan’s Foods with Function Claims (FFC) in fiscal 2020.

This was according to a report ‘FFC product analysis for fiscal 2020’​ published by Smooth Link, a Japanese consultancy firm specialising in life sciences.

The fiscal year of 2020 (1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021) saw a record number of 1,067 products, bringing the total to 3,602 products since the system launched in 2015. Read Part I here.

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