The global health product industry is constantly innovating—leveraging current science and consumer trends to launch products that pique the interest of health-conscious consumers. Probiotics are among the most popular health supplements worldwide, with global sales surpassing $44 billion USD in 2019 (Euromonitor, 2019).
Postbiotics have gained attention from the scientific community as soluble metabolic by-products that are secreted by probiotics. Boasting a multitude of potential health benefits, including reducing cholesterol, anti-inflammatory properties, and contributing to gut homeostasis, postbiotics are paving the way for a new generation of probiotic products in 2020 and beyond.
Relationship between: Prebiotics, Probiotics & Postbiotics
Prebiotics are nutrients that promote the growth or activity of beneficial gut microorganisms. They are mainly dietary fibres found in roots, whole grains, vegetables, fermented dairy products, breast milk, among other food products.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that break down prebiotics when consumed and provide many health benefits such as immune regulation, anti-inflammatory, recovery or regeneration of gut flora. They are naturally found in yogurt, kombucha, pickles, and tempeh to name a few.
The soluble bioactive factors released as a by-product of fermentation from the probiotic are called Postbiotics. They can exercise constructive biological responses and help in the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis.
Currently postbiotics are also referred to as modified, inactivated, non-viable, or para-ghost probiotics. They are widely used as an alternative to overcome risks of live probiotics, such as excessive immune stimulation, systemic infections, and horizontal gene transfer. Some of the better known postbiotic metabolites include the following:
- Amino acids
- Immune-signaling compounds
- Short-chain fatty acids
- Nitric oxide
- Organic acids
Benefits of Postbiotics
1. Diabetes and prediabetes
Probiotics improve the body’s use of insulin, thereby providing an anti-diabetic effect. MacMaster University in Canada has conducted a research recently which associates probiotics with decreasing blood sugar levels in pre-diabetic obese individuals.
2. Avoiding administrating live microorganisms
When probiotics feed on prebiotics, postbiotic metabolites are released via fermentation. Severely ill or immunocompromised patients and paediatric populations are intolerant to probiotics and in such cases, postbiotics can used as an effective alternative to live microorganisms.
3. Modulate inflammatory/immune responses
Studies show that many probiotic bacteria’s, such as lactobacillus casei DG, acetate, butyrate and propionate fatty acids release postbiotic metabolites that modulate inflammation by supressing the immune response, decrease the reactive oxygen species and regulate apoptosis.
Other benefits associated with postbiotics include treatment for:
- Inflammatory conditions including irritable bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Allergic reactions, such as dermatitis or conjunctivitis
- Gut problems - leaky gut syndrome, dysbiosis, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Joint pain due to inflammation
- Eye problems - allergic conjunctivitis
- Side effects due to exposure to environmental irritants
- Skin conditions - dermatitis, acne, eczema
- Veterinary uses
- Support the strength of the intestinal wall along with energy, brain function, and even mood
Top sources of Postbiotics
The body needs a robust and naturally diverse community of intestinal bacteria to thrive in homeostasis. Beyond probiotic supplements, food that can help increase the concentration of postbiotics in the gut include:
- Miso soup
- Soft cheeses
- Sourdough bread
Postbiotics are soluble metabolic by-products that are secreted by live bacteria or released after bacterial lysis (such as with enzymes, peptides, polysaccharides, cell surface proteins, and organic acids). They have recently drawn attention from the health product industry due to their simple chemical structure, safety dosage criteria, long shelf life, and the plethora of potential health benefits from their immunomodulatory to their anti-obesogenic effects. Such properties indicate that postbiotics can contribute to the improvement of human health by improving various physiological functions, although the exact mechanisms have not been completely elucidated.
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