Probiotic combination boosts amino acid absorption from plant protein: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

"Probiotic supplementation can be an important nutritional strategy to overcome compositional shortcomings of plant proteins," said the researchers. Image © Getty Images / GeorgeRudy
"Probiotic supplementation can be an important nutritional strategy to overcome compositional shortcomings of plant proteins," said the researchers. Image © Getty Images / GeorgeRudy

Related tags Probiotics plant protein absorption leucine Amino acids vegetarian Sports nutrition

A novel combination of two Lactobacillus paracasei strains may increase absorption of key amino acids in plant proteins, according to a new placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind, multicenter, crossover study.

Two weeks of consuming 20 grams per day of pea protein plus AminoAlta from SOFAR S.p.A. (Italy), which combines L. paracasei​ LP-DG (CNCM I-1572) with L. paracasei​ LPC-S01, led to significant increases in methionine, histidine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, tyrosine, total BCAA (branched-chain amino acids), and total EAA (essential amino acids), compared to placebo plus the pea protein.

The study’s preliminary findings were presented by lead researcher Dr Ralf Jaeger, Managing Member of Milwaukee-based Increnovo LLC, at NutraIngredients-USA’s Sports Nutrition Summit​ in San Diego in February, and are now published in full in the journal Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins.

Dr Jaeger told NutraIngredients-USA: “Plant proteins differ in digestibility and amino acid composition from animal proteins. Specifically, plant proteins such as pea or rice are lower in leucine and total essential amino acid content, amino acids that have been linked to muscle health. There are two parties feeding off the protein that we consume through our diet, the human, and our bacteria, that use the amino acids for their own growth and functioning.

“Probiotic supplementation with ​L. paracasei LP-DG (CNCM I-1572) plus ​L. paracasei LPC-S01 can be an important nutritional strategy to improve post-prandial changes in blood amino acids. The findings, that two strains of the same genus and species, have synergistic effects, and the overall scale of the improvements, matching the compositional shortcomings are unique and impressive.”

“Highly relevant”

Interest in plant protein continues to grow, with Innova Market Insights reporting that plant protein claims have increased 300% for new food and beverage product launches between 2013 and 2017.

Moreover, a recently released report by The Insight Partners (January 2020) titled “Plant Protein Market to 2027” expects a CAGR for the category of 6.2% through 2027, eventually reaching an estimated $28 billion.

Commenting on the study’ findings, Gregory Bonfilio, President & CEO of SOFAR Americas, said: “This study is highly relevant as millions of healthy-minded people — from vegans to flexitarians — embrace plant proteins over animal proteins, not only for workout gains and training, but to maintain lasting health.

“The rapid and unparalleled success of so-called plant-based meats, and the steady shift from whey to pea protein in the sports and weight management sectors, indicates that our research in this area over the last few years is both promising and pioneering.”

Dr Walter Fiore, Medical Manager at SOFAR S.p.A. and co-author of the study, added: “As plant proteins often lack the robust amino acid profile of animal proteins, the accelerated transition to plant proteins has created concerns about the adequacy of the amount of amino acids available for the body to absorb.

There are many subjects, primarily athletes, but also the elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, some vegetarians or vegans, who may need greater protein supplementation for different functions of the body. The diet, however, is not always able to supply adequate amounts of these macronutrients. As seen in our study, probiotic strains can help by acting as ‘boosters’ in the absorption of amino acids from plant proteins.”

Study details

Dr Jaeger and his co-workers recruited 15 physically active men and randomly assigned them to consume 20 grams of pea protein with either AminoAlta (5 billion CFU of L. paracasei​ LP-DG (CNCM I-1572) plus 5 billion CFU L. paracasei​ LPC-S01 (DSM 26760)) or a placebo for two weeks. These interventions were separated by a four week “washout” period, and blood samples taken at regular intervals.

Results showed that the area under the curve (AUC) for total BCAA and total EAA increased 22.8% and 16.0%, respectively after two weeks of probiotic supplementation, meaning that higher levels were being absorbed.

In addition, the authors observed increases in leucine (+23.3%), isoleucine (+26.0%), valine (+21.5%), and tyrosine (+16.0%) absorption.

“Taken together, this clinical study illustrates what could be an important nutritional strategy, not only to improve post-prandial changes in blood amino acids, but also to overcome compositional shortcomings of plant proteins,” ​said Dr Jaeger.

SOFAR Americas’ Bonfilio added that the results from the study are now informing the design and endpoints of their next two human clinical trials.

“For the industry, this rather unknown and unsung activity of probiotics should create an entirely new potential for plant-based proteins, as well as paving the way for efficacious and meaningful probiotic strain applications,” ​said Bonfilio.

Source: Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s12602-020-09656-5
“Probiotic Administration Increases Amino Acid Absorption from Plant Protein: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Double-Blind, Multicenter, Crossover Study”
Authors: R. Jäger, et al.

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