Danone: Everyday gut problems eased by probiotics

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotic

Daily consumption of a probiotic fermented milk product may improve gut health and well-being in women with everyday digestive problems, says a new study from Danone.

Using the company’s Activia product, scientists from Danone Research and the Paris Public Hospitals report that the probiotic product improved gastro-intestinal well-being by about 70 per cent.

“These data, taken together with previous data obtained on gastro-intestinal transit and in irritable bowel syndrome, suggest that this specific probiotic food may represent a promising nutritional and safe solution for the management of gastro-intestinal symptoms,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Dr Denis Guyonnet, a senior research scientist at Danone Research.

The study represents a strengthening of the science behind the company’s Bifidobacterium lactis​ DN-173 010-containing product.

The study was described as “an interesting and important study published in a reputable journal”​ by probiotic expert Professor Gregor Reid from the Canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute, and The University of Western Ontario.

“The study uses a commercially available product and normal healthy subjects, so conclusions drawn are relevant to what many consumers might experience,” ​Prof. Reid told NutraIngredients.

Active versus placebo

According to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition​, Dr Guyonnet and his co-workers recruited 197 women aged between 18 and 60 for their double-blind, controlled, parallel-design study. All of the participants reported having minor digestive disorders.

The women were randomly assigned to receive two 125 gram doses of the yoghurt containing B. lactis​ DN-173 010 and yoghurt strains or a control non-fermented dairy product for four weeks. The women were subsequently followed for a month after the supplementation period stopped.

Improvements in the gastro-intestinal well-being of women receiving the Activia product were significantly higher than women in the placebo group, state Dr Guyonnet and his co-workers.

Furthermore, digestive symptoms and a score measuring a person’s digestive comfort also significantly improved following probiotic supplementation.

Since gut problems are experienced by the general population as part of the normal, the researchers noted that the results of the new study may support the gut health and digestive symptoms in individuals who do not suffer from gastro-intestinal diseases.

The apparent beneficial effects were not maintained after the supplementation period was stopped, said the researchers. This was mirrored by a disappearance of the specific B. lactis​ strain. This observation “may support the observed decrease of the effect of this product”​, said the researchers. .

The next stage for the science

Looking to the next stage of research, Dr Guyonnet and his co-workers noted that it would be useful to investigate if longer durations of consumption had similar or prolonged effects on health-related quality of life.

“Investigations of gut microbiota modifications will allow the determination of mechanisms of action and could allow the determination of which population could benefit from the consumption of such kinds of probiotics,”​ they concluded.

Improving the health of a healthy person

Commenting on the study, Prof. Reid told NutraIngredients.com that the quality of life approach and use of a control strengthens the study.

“In the end, it is how the person perceives the situation that matters and you have to rule out placebo effects,” ​he said.

“Some people have said you can’t improve how a healthy person feels, but clearly that is not the case, as shown here.

“For a future study, it would be good to use a single Activia cup per day instead of two, and scientifically it would be intriguing to understand the nuances of subjects who responded and those who did not,”​ he said.

Danone recently gave $7m to Lawson Health Research Institute, and Prof. Reid was appointed the inaugural chair in Human Microbiology and Probiotics. However, Prof. Reid retains his status as an independent scientist.

EU health claims

The French dairy giant said recently that it will resubmit withdrawn gut and immunity probiotic health claims to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), after receiving guidance from the European Union’s head science body.

Danone withdrew from the process three article 13.5 emerging and proprietary science gut health and immunity claims in April, stating at the time it sought further guidance from EFSA at its stakeholder’s meeting in June.

With that advice pocketed, Danone is refining its submissions which it said would be ready for re-submission in “the coming weeks and months in support of all three claims”​.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, First View article​, doi: 10.1017/S0007114509990882
“Fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 improves gastrointestinal well-being and digestive symptoms in women reporting minor digestive symptoms: a randomised double-blind parallel controlled study”
Authors: D. Guyonnet, A. Schlumberger, L. Mhamdi, S. Jakob, O. Chassany

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