Brand aims to supply 'missing' prebiotic derived from fermented foods

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Brand aims to supply 'missing' prebiotic derived from fermented foods
A new prebiotic brand aims to bring the benefits of traditionally fermented foods to consumers in a convenient format, a company executive said.

Isothrive, a company based in Healdsburg, CA, is debuting a consumer brand intestinal health product based on maltosyl-iso-malto-oligosaccharide (MIMO). The molecule is produced via a fermentation process and is present in small amounts in traditionally fermented foods such as beets, said CEO Jack Oswald. The prebiotic fiber’s presence in these foods is one of the reasons for the traditional association of health benefits connected with their consumption, he said.

“The original work on this fiber and how to produce it was done at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge,” ​Oswald told NutraIngredients-USA. “At LSU they started with traditionally fermented vegetables to isolate MIMOs. You will find some of this molecule in those products. Over the course of human history, it has been one of the most prevalent prebiotics in the human diet.”

LSU experts developed a fermentation production process that uses organic, non-GMO sugar and maltose inputs to delivery a MIMO-rich syrup-like product, which in the Isothrive packaging is called a ‘nectar.’  Oswald said that word, an unusual one in the prebiotic world of powdered ingredients, was chosen for a couple of reasons.

“First, ‘nectar’ refers to the fact that the product is slightly sweet, but not overly so, like nectar from a  flower,  Second, there is the notion that ‘nectar’ refers to something that is concentrated, and healthful.  This is a concentrated source, consisting of about 65% MIMOs,” ​Oswald said.

Prebiotics missing from diet

Oswald said MIMOs were once prevalent in the human diet, but, like other prebiotic fibers, have been taken out in processing steps.

“One of the most prevalent sources used to be in sourdough bread,”​ he said. “That kind of bread used to be a major source of energy in the diet.  One of the things that has been systematically removed from the diet is prebiotic fibers.”

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Oswald said he came to the production of dietary ingredients through fermentation through the back door of renewable fuels technology. Like other experts and companies that realm, the hill toward profitability was too steep to climb in a sector that is relentlessly governed by commodity pricing.  Demonstrating the feasibility of fermented fuels, whether from corn or other sources, is all fine and good; making them pay sans fat subsidies is something else entirely. The nutraceutical realm offered a way to use that experience to benefit consumers directly, Oswald said.  The company chose a Milwaukee-based contract manufacturer with extensive fermentation experience to produce the product.

“When we looked through the lens of evolutionary biology, we realized this was a huge opportunity to help people to be healthier,” ​Oswald said.

LSU researchers, John Day Jr and CH Chung, who did some of the early work on the molecule, said the molecule may function not only as a prebiotic in birds (poultry) and mammals, but also as a non-competitive inhibitor of a-glucosidase​, meaning it could have potential blood sugar and weight management properties.  One of its big advantages, Oswald said, is that the initial research showed that it could be effective a low doses. 

“If you have the right prebiotic, you don’t need 10 grams. You only need one gram,”​ Oswald said.

One of the key intestinal health parameters the product is meant to promote is to feed the gut bacteria preferentially, so that they are not driven to feed on the gut's mucosa layer in absence of proper food sources, Oswald said. 

The product is packaged in 1/4 ounce sachets that are meant to be mixed into water.

“The water part is really just a public service, because people don’t drink enough water,”​ Oswald joked. “Consumers really could just open the package and squeeze it directly into their mouths.”

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