Probiotics Beyond Gut Health

Beyond gut health, which is still going strong, a trend which is accelerating and will remain at the heart of consumers’ preoccupation
is mental health. According to Nutrition Business Journal, who listed the top ten trends in 2020 in the US, mental health supplement sales
grew of around 29.4% to reach $1.16B, vs 11% in 2019 and this trend doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Globally, among GenZ, Millenials, GenX and baby boomers, mental wellbeing is the top priority in terms of health. While healthy living used to be focused on physical ailments and appearance, in the past couple of years there has been a dramatic shift in attention to mental wellbeing (Euromonitor’s Health and Nutrition Survey 2020, 21 countries, 21 000 respondents). Consumers are preoccupied equally by their physical and mental wellbeing in a holistic approach to health.

The rise of the gut-brain axis

Probiotics have the ability to reach both the gut and the brain by acting through the gut-brain axis. Consumers comprehend that overall health starts in the gut and that a balanced microbiome will have repercussion on many conditions, including immune health and mental health. In 2020, 46.2% of global consumers associated probiotics with cognitive health, while 23.7% of global probiotic consumers stated they use probiotic to aid mental wellbeing (as compared to 15.6% in 2018) and 22.6% of them stated they use probiotic to reduce stress (as compared to 17.4% in 2018) (FMCG Gurus, Probiotics survey 2020, 15 countries). Moreover 44.2% of global consumers are willing to spend more money on supplements that offer benefits in improving mental wellbeing and reducing stress (FMCG Gurus, Nutritional supplements survey, 2020, 26 countries).

L. rhamnosus HA-114 supports weight management efforts

In a recent clinical trial, scientists saw a direct demonstration of the role of the brain on eating behaviors. More specifically, the probiotic strain L. rhamnosus HA-114 improved eating and mood-related behaviors in adults with overweight during a weight loss program. In this recent, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, otherwise healthy, overweight adults starting a diet were recruited [Choi, 2021 – Submitted]. While on a personalized energy-restricted diet (-500 kcal per day), participants were randomized to either take L. rhamnosus HA-114 or a placebo. Physiological and psychological parameters and eating behaviors using validated questionnaires were measured at baseline and at 12 weeks. The results confirmed that L. rhamnosus HA-114 can support weight management efforts. In the probiotic group, eating behaviors such as binge eating, lack of control over eating or cravings significantly reduced over the course of the
study. In addition, feelings of stress, anxiety and depression improved significantly compared to baseline. In short, L. rhamnosus HA-114 intake enhanced the mood of participants during their diet, helping them resist their cravings while supporting psychological wellbeing.

Breakthrough results

These breakthrough results demonstrate L. rhamnosus HA-114’s positive impact on eating behaviors by promoting a well-balanced gut-brain axis communication to support weight management efforts. This proof of concept is a good foundation for further studies and for sure a
trend to be exploited in the near future. Brands can trust that consumers are increasingly aware of the varied health applications of probiotics, and they should take advantage of this knowledge to go further in their offer.