Ohio-based Ganeden, manufacturer of the probiotic strain analyzed in this study (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086, also known as Ganeden BC30), funded the study.
“Previous research showed that our patented strain, GanedenBC30, had protein utilization benefits when combined with animal-based proteins,” Dr. David Keller, vice president of scientific operations for Ganeden and one of the researchers in the study, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He was citing a study that looked at BC30’s potential benefit in sports recovery used together with whey protein, published last summer.
“Based on these findings, we decided to delve into more details around this benefit, including looking at other forms of protein such as pea, soy and rice plant sources,” he added. “The additional studies confirmed that the protein benefits apply to not only animal-based proteins, but to plant-based proteins as well.”
Plant proteins: Soy, Pea, Rice
For the study, published in the journal Beneficial Microbes, three plant protein ingredients were analyzed separately: Soy Protein Isolate NoGel Lovi (Gushen Biological Technology Group), yellow pea protein concentrate Organic VegOtein P80 (Axiom Foods), and rice protein concentrate Organic Oryzatein Ultra 80 (Axiom Foods). All were free-flowing powders soluble in water.
The researchers created in vitro models of digestion in the stomach and small intestine, designed to simulate the average physiological conditions found in adult human gastrointestinal tracts. Two in vitro models were created for each plant protein ingredient—one with BC30 and the other without it.
Study results: Better protein absorption
Samples of the ‘digested’ ingredients were taken from fractions that mimic uptake of amino acids by the host and were analyzed for alpha-amino nitrogen and total nitrogen—a higher total nitrogen indicated better digestion of protein ‘absorbed by the body.’
Compared to the in vitro imitations of the stomach and small intestines without BC30, presence of the probiotic increased total nitrogen. The increase was biggest for pea protein (approximately 60% more than without BC30), followed by rice (30%) and soy (20%).
“These results indicate that BC30 increases the total amount of nitrogen that is absorbed by the host, indicating it aids in digestion of these proteins,” the researchers wrote.
A side benefit of having more protein digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract is a healthier colon environment, the researchers argued. “Proteins that reach the colon may be…fermented by the gut microbiota,” they wrote, “[which] leads to the production of all kinds of metabolites which are considered to be harmful for the host.”
Probiotics can ride on plant-based protein boom
Researchers of the study argued that despite the lower digestibility of plant proteins compared to animal-based protein sources, “ingestion of plant proteins is increasing enormously nowadays,” in part due to consumer concerns of the environmental impact of meat and dairy, according to analysis by market research company Packaged Facts.
Last year, US retail sales of plant-based foods and beverages grew 3.4% to $4.9bn in the year to June 12, 2016, according to data from SPINS. New product development in the category has also been rapid, as seen at finished product trade shows like this year’s Expo West.
Legacy sports brands are also plunging into the plant protein category, such as PowerBar, which launched a line of plant protein bars this year. With results of this study, there has been an increase of demand for including BC30 in plant protein products, such as Naturally More’s nut butters and Pure Food Company’s Plant-Based Protein Powder.
Responsible and effective marketing of probiotics
Dr. Keller pointed out that it’s important for consumers to know that probiotic benefits in digesting protein, as seen in this study, are strain specific.
“Too often we see all probiotics grouped together when discussing benefits,” Dr. Keller said. “In the past, the educational focus was on increasing consumer awareness of the term ‘probiotic,’ but a March 2017 consumer survey shows that more than three out of every four consumers are aware of the term and the potential health benefits.
“Now, it is important to educate consumers to understand that ‘probiotic’ is not a one-size-fits-all term. Manufacturers need to help their consumers understand the differences between probiotic strains by promoting the specific strain and the science behind it.”
IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas 2017
Dr. Keller will be speaking at the upcoming IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas 2017 in San Francisco. For more information and to register, please click HERE .