EpiCor shows intestinal barrier benefits: Animal data

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / JONGHO SHIN
© Getty Images / JONGHO SHIN
Consumption of the yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) fermentate EpiCor may protect against leaky gut as a result of heat stress, according to a new study with lab rats.

Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to cool itself by sweating and can lead to significant morphological changes in the gut of an animal or human. One of these changes is that the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract is affected and results in a situation called leaky gut. Leaky gut is as it sounds: An undesirable situation when toxic bacterial components can pass from the gut lumen into the blood.

The new study follows on from a 2016 study in the Journal of Thermal Biology​ that found that EpiCor’s immune and potential prebiotic effects may enhance gut integrity and reduce the detrimental effects of heat stress.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Microbiology​, scientists from Auburn University report that EpiCor led to increases in Bifidobacterium numbers, prevented the rise in Escherichia and Staphylicoccus, and lessened the morphological changes associated with heat stress.

“Our results revealed substantial effect of ​S. cerevisiae fermentate prebiotic in prevention of heat stress‐related complications,” ​wrote the scientists, led by Iryna Sorokulova. “Oral treatment of rats with prebiotic before exposure to heat stress conditions protected disruption of Paneth and goblet cells homeostasis, maintained expression of TJ [tight junction] proteins. We suggest that these effects are associated with beneficial modulation of the gut microbiota by prebiotic.”


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 employees at Diamond V, Embria's parent company, had far lower sick rates than other workplaces (Diamond V was acquired by Cargill in 2017). The company thought the culture could be boosting the immune systems of workers who handled it. 

In recent years the ingredient’s potential prebiotic activity has been reported.

Despite being technically ‘grandfathered in’ as a dietary ingredient safe for use in supplements under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), 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.

Study details

Sorokulova and her co-workers divided lab rats into two groups: EpiCor fed and control. On the last day of the trial, half of each group were heat stressed at 45°C (113°F) for 25 minutes.

Results showed that heat stress led to undesirable effects, such as inhibition of the expression tight junction proteins, and decreases in Paneth and goblet cells. “Paneth and goblet cells are indispensable for maintaining homeostasis with enteric microbes as they promote the removal of microbes from the mucosal surface,” ​explained the authors. “Reduction in number or defects in activity of these cells lead to microbiota dysbiosis.”

However, consumption of EpiCor prior to heat stress reduced these detrimental effects.

Heat stress is also know to decrease beneficial bacteria and increase pathogenic bacteria, and again such undesirable effects were attenuated by EpiCor pre-feeding.

“Our results will contribute to the development of new approaches to prevention of heat stress‐related complications,” ​they concluded.

Source: Journal of Applied Microbiology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/jam.14361
“Yeast fermentate prebiotic improves intestinal barrier integrity during heat stress by modulation of the gut microbiota in rats”
Authors: H.A.G. Ducray et al.

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