August 2021 | Audrey O'Neill
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people worldwide. It has altered the way our world functions and the consumers' outlook on health and well-being. A particularly high transmission rate and long-term conditions of the COVID-19 virus are major concerns. Post-infection symptoms in COVID-19 patients include, but are not limited to, an abnormal immune response and difficulty breathing. These long-term effects of COVID-19 may last weeks or months after the initial infection. All these challenges and side effects associated with the virus have transformed the way we perceive our health and well-being.
One of the ways people can help support their immune system and modulate their immune response following a COVID-19 infection is taking probiotics. Previous probiotic studies have shown that probiotics support our immune system and may help regulate an abnormal immune response and inflammation, preventing the system from going into an "overdrive".
A growing number of consumers are adopting a long-term, proactive approach to their health. They increasingly opt for holistic health solutions and functional nutrition to support their well-being. As a result, consumers seek out foods and ingredients that will boost their health and immune resilience from the inside. A holistic approach to health and functional nutrition for immune support have emerged at the forefront of consumer trends.
The most popular preventative healthcare and functional nutrition measures include taking immune-supporting supplements, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and probiotics. Numerous studies have successfully proven that probiotics and probiotic-rich foods play an important role in supporting a healthy immune system and modulating the immune response. A growing number of consumers motivated by the study results are turning to functional nutrition and foods designed for immunity support to help protect themselves from viruses and improve their well-being.
A recent study of P. Acidilactici probiotics demonstrated the effectiveness of said probiotics in modulating the body's immune response and controlling inflammation, which causes difficulty breathing and other symptoms of long-COVID.
Researchers are trying to understand the relationship between the COVID-19 virus and the body's immune response. In particular, they are researching the hyper-inflammatory response generated in the body after an infection by the COVID-19 virus. This abnormal immune reaction has resulted in severe respiratory difficulties in many people who have contracted and been infected by the Coronavirus.
Recently scientists have developed a better understanding of the causes of the atypical inflammation related to COVID-19. In a healthy body, when the immune system encounters a pathogen, it responds accordingly, preparing to attack the 'invader.' Cytokines are an integral part of the immune response. These proteins help the immune system tell "good" cells from "bad" cells. Cytokines can communicate with nearby cells and modulate the immune response, acting as a 'messenger.'
While cytokines are an integral part of our natural defense mechanism, the 'cytokine storm' is a dilemma that further complicates the body's response to these dangerous pathogens. The 'cytokine storm' was coined to describe an uncontrollable inflammatory response produced by the immune system. When the cytokines become too abundant, the body loses its ability to regulate these proteins, and the immune system starts to work in 'overdrive.' The overstimulation of the immune system and the resultant 'cytokine storm' leads to extreme inflammation. In this case, the immune cells do not stop at the site of infection but rather begin to attack healthy, functioning tissues within the body, leading to further damage.
The 'cytokine storm' damages the lung alveoli, which can cause acute respiratory syndrome. Experiencing acute respiratory syndrome is one of the dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, as lungs may be more susceptible to fill up with fluids and cause distress.
While there are no definitive answers as to how we can completely stop a 'cytokine storm' when it begins, there are measures that can be taken to help the body regulate the immune response when its regulation mechanisms are not working correctly.
One way we can help support our immune system includes adding probiotics to our wellness regime. Recent scientific advances have shown that probiotics can help modulate the immune system and can help prevent it from going into 'overdrive.' Probiotics are live bacteria that benefit and support our immune system and help in food digestion and nutrient absorption.
Dr. Lin, the chief scientist of Imagilin Technologies, recently conducted research that demonstrated the effectiveness of Pediococcus Acidilactici probiotics in controlling inflammation. Dr. Lin explained that "P. Acidilactici NRRL B-50517 has the potential to reduce the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines, specifically Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and Interleukin 23 (IL-23) in the body. Therefore, consuming Pediococcus Acidilactici probiotics is a viable way to protect an overstimulated immune system. It may serve as a line of defense against the 'cytokine storm'."
According to Dr. Lin, in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect of the virus on the body's overactive inflammatory response and resultant respiratory distress, taking the P. Acidilactici probiotic as a supplement or as part of one's diet may be helpful to support the immune system and modulate the inflammatory response.
Pediococcus Acidilactici is a unique, plant-based probiotic harvested from switchgrass. One of the exclusive benefits of this natural probiotic is its ability to withstand a low pH (as low as 1.5) which means that it can withstand an acidic stomach environment. This non-spore-forming probiotic is also temperature and oxygen stable, which further ensures its viability and provides an extended shelf life. These benefits allow for ease of use in dry mix supplements and capsules.
Beyond probiotic supplements, formulators have unlimited opportunities to innovate new delivery systems for probiotics using popular foods when using P. Acidilactici shelf-stable probiotics.
According to FMCG Gurus' Probiotic Popularity report 2021, consumers who seek out probiotic products are more likely to choose probiotic-rich food and drink products over supplements. Value-added products may provide an optimal delivery system for probiotics, as they are more convenient and easier to incorporate into a daily diet. Novel offerings that provide both immune benefits and deliver excellent, indulgent flavors have the potential to become a new favorite for many consumers. P. Acidilactici probiotic is oxygen and temperature stable, which means that it can be added into various prepared foods, like yogurt, milk, soups, ice cream, chocolate, spreads, snacks, and more. The new, probiotic-rich products will appeal to a broader range of consumers while providing health and immune benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the consumer trend of proactively managing health and well-being through functional nutrition. Food formulators who want to appeal to a larger consumer market and offer functional probiotic products should explore opportunities in the value-added foods sector. The unique immune-supporting function of probiotics provides unlimited opportunities for innovation in the functional food sector.