Bruce Hamaker, PhD of Purdue’s the Department of Food Science, developed the new designer prebiotic fiber, composed of starch-encapsulated alginate microspheres, to get through the upper reaches of the gastrointestinal tract intact and to be fermented more slowly than other fibers in the large intestine and the colon. The technology aims to both maximize the fiber’s health benefits while minimizing the gastric upset that some consumers report when trying high fiber diets.
“The Purdue researchers have put together this microbead technology which is a propriety and patent-pending manufacturing process. It produces these small microbeads which take the fiber into the far reaches of the digestive system and ultimately promote digestive health,” Mark Cisneros, president and CEO of Nutrabiotix told NutraIngredients-USA.
Nutrabiotix licensed the technology through the Office of Technology Commercialization at Purdue, located in West Layfayette, Ind. The technology was developed in conjunction with Dr. Ali Keshavarzian of Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center, and has undertaken to develop it further. Dr. Keshavarzian, a gastroenterologist, conducted two human clinical trials on the ingredient at Rush.
Slower to digest
Many other fibers, Cisneros said, ferment rapidly when they first reach the large intestine, which to the gastric upset many people experience with higher fiber intake.
The Nutrabiotix fiber, on the other hand, avoids this rapid buildup of intestinal gas, Cisneros said.
"The initial goal of the research was to address the problem of dietary fiber intolerance," Prof. Hamaker said. "Intolerance is mainly caused by rapid fermentation. Nearly everyone is affected by intolerance, depending on the amount of fiber they digest and how rapidly it ferments."
“It’s food for your good bacteria. The bacteria ferment the microbeads throughout the whole of the colon,” Cisneros said.
Food scientists at one time thought that the physical bulking properties were the key benefit of dietary fibers. Now they know that the story is much more complex; the fermentation process of prebiotic fibers churns out a host of chemicals beneficial to the cells that line the gut.
"Butyrate, which is produced in high levels by the Purdue-designed fiber, is a beneficial by-product of the fermentation process," Hamaker said. "It has an anti-inflammatory effect and is an energy source for the cells that line the colon."
Trials showed good results
The clinical trials conducted by Dr. Dr. Keshavarzian showed good results, he said.
"The first trial determined the fiber is well tolerated by patients and produces no side effects," he said. "The second trial compared the fiber to psyllium, a dietary fiber that is used as an ingredient in high-fiber foods. This trial, which received support from the National Institutes of Health and the state of Indiana, showed the fiber was tolerated significantly better than psyllium, increased butyrate and promoted the growth of good bacteria."
Key to the fiber’s superior health benefits is its low fermentation rate, Hamaker said. Other fibers have often been completely broken down before reaching the distal end of the colon, thus the cells in region don’t benefit as much from these fermentation products. And it is this far end of the colon where disease often first appears, Hamaker said.
Cisneros said the fiber is aimed at the supplement and functional foods markets. In addition, he said, the fiber may have application in medical foods.