The company has been studying the effects of probiotic alongside protein supplementation and its impact in supporting amino acid absorption last year.
The firm is part of Ildong Pharmaceutical and specialises in the research and manufacture of health foods and ingredients.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia at Healthplex Expo 2023 / Natural & Nutraceutical Products China 2023, regional manager Joon-Eon Chun said that the company was interested in the protein supplement market and was hoping to use probiotics as a point of market differentiation.
“There are tons of protein manufacturers in South Korea and therefore, we asked ourselves, what if probiotics have the function to produce protease and what if probiotics could help with the absorption of amino acids?
“With this, we started to screen our strains bank and identified some strains that potentially possess these functions,” Chun said, adding that the work started last year.
Three strains were identified from the screening, namely Lactobacillus casei IDCC 3451, Lactobacillus rhamnosus IDCC 3201, and Lactobacillus plantarum IDCC 3501.
The three strains were respectively tested on plant protein, animal protein, and a combination of animal and plant protein for their protease activities in animal models.
“Among the amino acids that we focused on, we found that the probiotic strains exhibited notable absorption capacity for glutamate, aspartate, proline, serine, glycine, tryptophan, and taurine,” Chun pointed out.
For instance, the co-administration of Lactobacillus rhamnosus IDCC 3451 and legumin protein mixture in mice for eight weeks showed that the concentrations of branched chain amino acids and essential amino acids were 1.36 and 1.41 times higher than those that were only fed with legumin protein mixture.
Findings of the study were published in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins in May, in which the researchers concluded that the co-supplementation of plant-based proteins with Lactobacillus rhamnosus IDCC 3451 could improve protein digestibility.
Chun said that the probiotic strains worked by increasing the activity of the enzyme protease, which was responsible for breaking down protein into amino acids.
“Most of the elderly do not have the ability to break down protein into amino acids, due to the lack of protease inside their bodies. Therefore, if we focus on this aspect, I think we could have a better product for the elderly people who are concerned about their protein intake,” he said.
Improving the digestibility and absorption of protein could also help to support different aspects of human health and wellbeing, he added.
“From neurotransmission and tissue maintenance to energy production and antioxidant defence, the impact of enhanced amino acid absorption can be far-reaching. In fact, we are collaborating with some prominent companies to take an advantage on this functionality."
He said that these strains could also be used to improve digestion in kids and elderly, as well as protein absorption among vegans.
In May, it was reported that the company had obtained patents for three of its proprietary probiotic strains that have been found to boost the body’s production of B-vitamins and vitamin C.
Strategies for China
Ildong Bioscience has been selling finished products under the brand name Lactonia and Lac n Tok via distributors in China for about three years.
As there is a preference for Korea-made products among some consumers, some of the distributors have intentionally requested the finished products to be labelled in Korean while necessary information such as the ingredient list and direction of use are translated into Mandarin.
Asked the company’s business strategies for China, Chun said the firm would focus on its probiotics portfolio while conducting consumer education on parabiotics and postbiotics at the same time.
“Firstly, we would like to focus on probiotics at this moment. After the customers could appreciate the importance of different ‘biotics’ such as para or postbiotics, then we would start to offer another ‘biotic’ product to them.”
He added that the firm had obtained health functional foods claims for both its pro- and postbiotics.
For example, last year, the firm’s probiotic strain Bifidobacterium breve IDCC 4401 was approved by South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for its claim in lowering the body’s cholesterol level.
Earlier, its postbiotic strain Lactobacillus rhanmosus IDCC 3201 was approved to make anti-allergic claims.