New research boosts yeast product’s immune health credentials

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system

The yeast-based ingredient Wellmune WGP, from Minnesota biotechnology company Biothera, reduces upper respiratory tract infection symptoms and improves mood states judging by new research presented at the recent Experimental Biology 2010 conference in Anaheim, California.

The company’s Don Cox, vice president, research and development of the Healthcare Group, told “The data is consistent with the results of four previous clinical trials that found that Wellmune WGP naturally enhances the immune system to provide a greater degree of protection, particularly during periods of high physical or psychological stress​.”

In the latest study, individuals with high stress lifestyles taking Wellmune WGP for 12 weeks reported a 58% reduction in upper respiratory tract infection symptoms, compared with those taking a placebo. Participants also rated their overall health and sense of vigor higher (to statistically significant levels) than those not taking Wellmune.

Key immune cells

Wellmune WGP, derived from the cell walls of a proprietary strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) via a patented manufacturing process, is a natural carbohydrate that activates key immune cells.

The product works by activating innate immune cells (neutrophils) that are the body’s first line of defense when the immune system is weakened by physical or mental stress, explained Cox. “Neutrophils are the largest population of immune cell in the body, accounting for 60-70% of all immune cells. Primed with Wellmune, neutrophils more quickly find and kill foreign challenges​,” he said.

Immune cells have a specific receptor (called CR3 receptor) that recognizes Wellmune's unique structure. Once primed with Wellmune, immune cells can more effectively engage challenges​,” added Cox.

Designed for use with foods, beverages and premium supplements, Wellmune can be used in a large number of subcategories in each segment. For example, beverages example, may include dairy, waters, teas, juices, sports drinks and other functional beverages, as well as powdered beverages.

The company claims that Wellmune, unlike other natural products, enhances immune function without over stimulating the immune system, which may be harmful and claims that its mode of action in the body is well understood.

The product has broad regulatory approval, including GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status under regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Market opportunities

Meanwhile, Cox identified big market opportunities for immune health products. “The immune category has passed the tipping point​,” he told “Consumers may not fully understand how the immune system works but they know that it is critical to maintaining overall health and well-being. Driving factors behind this change in awareness include the fear of pandemics, increasingly hurried, stressful lives and frequency of travel.”

Food and beverage manufacturers in virtually every product category are responding to consumer needs for products with immune health benefits, he added.

The research presented at Experimental Biology 2010 was conducted on behalf of Biothera by independent research and development company, GLH Nutrition.

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