EpiCor shows prebiotic activity – new study unlocks ingredient’s immunity mechanisms


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EpiCor was found to boost growth of beneficial bacteria in the the simulator of the intestinal microbial ecosystem
EpiCor was found to boost growth of beneficial bacteria in the the simulator of the intestinal microbial ecosystem

Related tags Bacteria

The immune benefits of EpiCor, the yeast fermentate from Embria, may be related to its prebiotic potential to boost levels of beneficial bacteria, says a new study.

Tests conducted using the simulator of the intestinal microbial ecosystem (SHIME) model at Ghent University in Belgium indicated that EpiCor was also associated with increased the levels of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that has been shown to be beneficial for gut immune health.

Larry Robinson, VP of Scientific Affairs at Embria Health Sciences and co-author of the paper in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry​, described the science as “ground-breaking”.

“The prebiotic-like effects we see with EpiCor are at a relatively low dose as compared to the much higher doses required for efficacy with the more established prebiotic fibers such as FOS or inulin,”​ said Dr Robinson.


EpiCor and Embria were born out of observations that the culture could have other uses following farmers' reports that their animals were not getting sick.

Moreover, in 2004 insurance adjusters noticed that Diamond V, Embria's parent company, employees had far lower sick rates than other workplaces. The company thought the culture could be boosting the immune systems of workers who handled it.

The ingredient is a fermentate preparation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae​.

Despite being technically ‘grandfathered in’ as a dietary ingredient safe for use in supplements under the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, the company submitted EpiCor to the new dietary ingredient (NDI) process, and received the green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. EpiCor received self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in May 2006.

Clinical studies on EpiCor link it to a range of immune-related benefits, including a reduction in cold- and flu-like symptoms in non-vaccinated individuals (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine​, Vol. 16, pp. 213-218), a reduction in the incidence and duration of cold and flu symptoms in subjects who had been vaccinated (Urologic Nursing​, Vol. 28, pp. 50-55), and an improvement in allergy symptoms like runny nose (Advances in Therapy​, Vol. 26, pp. 795-804).

Study details

While the immune benefits are well reported, the actual mechanism(s) of action are largely unknown, explained the authors of the new JAFC paper.

Using the SHIME model, described by the researchers as “extensively validated as a valuable in vitro tool to study intestinal digestion and fermentation under representative conditions in a long-term study setting”​, the metabolism of EpiCor by the intestinal microflora was analysed.

Results showed that low doses of EpiCor had a potential prebiotic effect on microbiota in the lumin and mucosa.

“The gut is extremely important for proper immune health, as the GALT (Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue) comprises a large part of the immune system,” states Dr. Stuart Reeves, Director of Research and Development, Embria Health Sciences.

The yeast fermentate was found to boost bifidobacteria levels to a similar extent as inulin, an established prebiotic fiber, but also outperformed inulin in boosting lactobacilli. An increase in levels of the short chain fatty acid (SCFA) butyrate were also observed for EpiCor.

 “SCFAs are the main metabolic products of anaerobic bacteria fermentation, are suggested to be the link between microbiota and host tissues, and are known to prevent pathological conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, and cancer,”​ they wrote.

“SCFAs, particularly butyrate, are able to modulate the production and release of chemotactic and adhesion molecules in neutrophils and the expression of cytokines in intestinal epithelial cells and immune cells. Therefore, the metabolic activity induced by the yeast fermentate toward butyrate production may contribute to its immune-protective eects.

Furthermore, when the SHIME model was combined with cell studies (using Caco-2 cells), the researchers reported a significant decrease in pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines.

“Despite these promising results, in vitro studies should be corroborated by in vivo experimental data. Therefore, such in vitro findings may be useful in the design of targeted clinical studies aimed to confirm the mode of action and the relevance of the observed eects,”​ they concluded.

Source: Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry
2013, Volume 61, Pages 9380−9392, doi: 10.1021/jf402137r
“A Dried Yeast Fermentate Selectively Modulates both the Luminal and Mucosal Gut Microbiota and Protects against Inflammation, As Studied in an Integrated in Vitro Approach.”
Authors: S. Possemiers, 

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