The Ever Evolving World of Probiotics

shutterstock_389172382 (1)Maintaining digestive health is an important part of so many peoples’ everyday lives.  Probiotics have emerged as one of the most popular go-to’ strategies for people who struggle with digestive health issues.  While the popularity of probiotics added to a daily diet has risen very quickly, the industry has had to adapt to this in many ways.

New strategies have been implemented to support:

  • Shelf Stability
  • Degradation- combining probiotic bacteria with other ingredients that will not degrade the live cells.
  • Proper Labeling- adherence to label claims

Shelf Stability

The most important objective in offering a probiotic to customers is to ensure that the customer is getting what they are paying for.  This is accomplished through a number of processing and packaging strategies.  First, the environment the probiotics are processed in must be right.  Temperature and humidity control is critical during processing and bottling because heat and moisture will make probiotics less stable.  Bottles need to be of a certain standard, either glass or a high density, BPA-Free white plastic. Prior to bottling, the bottles need to be flushed of oxygen via nitrogen in order to remove as much atmosphere as possible.  When this occurs and the bottle is capped and sealed, it is then able to be placed on the shelf without concern for degradation.shutterstock_372340783

Degradation

It is fairly well known that probiotic bacteria are very fragile.  The two most damaging elements are heat and moisture. This results in extremely strict processes associated with manufacturing probiotic products (remember Shelf Stability?).  It also dictates what other ingredients can be combined with probiotics.  All nutrients and supplement ingredients have ‘moisture content’ and it is essential that only low moisture ingredients are combined with probiotics. By adhering to moisture and heat regulation we are able to ensure stability and shelf life for longer periods.

Labeling

Probiotics can be measured and listed on a label in a variety of ways: by weight (mg), activity (Colony Forming Unit or CFU), potency (CFU/g) -the number of organisms (which includes all- live, dead and colony forming) and living organisms (which includes colony forming and living, non-colony forming).  The industry standard for many years has been to list the CFU. However, this method is changing.

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Many companies are moving toward weight listing with a CFU/g count after each strain of probiotic or a ‘living organism’ count.  The reason the changes are taking place is to provide as much information to the consumer as possible.  This allows people to make the most informed decision.

FoodScience labels by weight and by potency.  Potency of the strains is emerging as a very important indicator of the quality of the probiotic.  For example, you could have a strain that has a potency of 1 billion CFU per gram (1 billion/g) or you could have a potency of 100 billion CFU per gram (100 billion/g).  The 100 billion per gram is a more powerful potency and would, theoretically, provide better support.030028F.120(SFP)

As the landscape changes in this part of the supplement world, don’t be surprised to hear more about shelf stability and see the verbiage and listings of ingredients on the labels shift and change.  The trends we’re seeing in the industry are indicating that probiotics are going to continue on their upward trajectory.  With that comes the responsibility of companies like FoodScience to keep up with the demand for the highest quality and standardized products to support digestive health.

To learn more about choosing the right probiotic for you, check out this post:

Go With Your Gut: How to choose probiotics.

Written by Dr. Adam Kilpartrick, DC, CNS

Chief Science Officer/ FoodScience Corporation

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