Advanced Biotics partners shift work expert to optimise health and safety through microbiome modulation

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Tillema, co-founder & head of R&D at Advanced Biotics and Alexander Van Eekelen, Director of Netherland Operations at Circadian
Tillema, co-founder & head of R&D at Advanced Biotics and Alexander Van Eekelen, Director of Netherland Operations at Circadian

Related tags Startup company Gut health Prebiotics microbiome postbiotics

A gut health supplement startup has partnered a shift work expert in the Netherlands to illuminate the extensive health benefits of microbiome modulation in night workers.

Advanced Biotics is putting its Daily Microbiome Booster supplements – containing prebiotic, postbiotic and collagen - to the test in a shift work nutrition program run by the Netherlands arm of the global workforce solutions firm Circadian.

The programme will see the brand’s powdered supplement integrated into a nutrition programme developed to optimise the health and safety of studied workers.

Dr. Alexander van Eekelen, independent consultant, psychologist, and Director of Netherlands Operations at Circadian, has concentrated his expertise in the area of nutrition for shift workers for the last 13 years.

He tells NutraIngredients: “Shift work comes with a range of health issues which come as a result of disruption to the circadian rhythm and the biological clock, which bring about jet lag-like complaints, including concentration issues, energy levels, sleep quality, and digestive problems.

“In the long term, shift work issues concentrate around metabolic related issues – higher risk of becoming overweight, of developing type 2 diabetes.

“We know, from research in the last last 10-15 years, that the disruption of circadian rhythmicity and sleep-wake rhythmicity has a detrimental effect on the health of the microbiome. And the detrimental impact on the microbiome can largely explain these shift work-specific health issues – it is like the whole sickness model comes full circle.”

The sleep health expert, with a PhD in physiological psychology, has been conducting shift work nutrition programs in the Netherlands for several years, with significant results.

“When work schedules become irregular, also nutrition patterns become irregular, especially during the night shifts, so nutrition patterns become more fragmented," he explains.

“The programmes bring back structure in nutrition patterns based on the principles of chrononutrition, i.e. in terms of meal timing, meal composition and also meal frequency.

“And I got very good results with that – we actually found in the last group of shift workers, out of three who were diagnosed with diabetes type 2, all of them reported back that their blood sugar levels dropped to normal levels and they were consulting their GP to cut down their medication.”

He notes that there are facts known about how metabolism changes at night which dictate how diet should be adjusted. For example, between midnight and 4:00 AM, people are more insulin resistant so fast carbs and sugar rich foods should be avoided during this time.

“When you take these insights and translate them into nutrition programmes, fatigue and sleepiness can reduce by 20-25%, GI symptoms by 15-20% and people slept longer and better after their night shifts.

“The physiological trick is just to stabilise blood-sugar levels and take the day and night differences in metabolism more into account.”

In the last 1.5 years, van Eekelen has been working with those who can analyse stool samples to analyse the microbiome samples of shift workers and then work with dieticians to modify nutrition to optimise microbiome health.

That’s where Advanced Biotics came in - when he saw the company, which launched just last year, was planning its own research into the impact of its product on the health of shift workers.

“I was very enthusiastic and very curious – if I already had a good impact just with nutrition programmes, what if we went further with using a tangible product to targeting the microbiome health of shift workers…

“I think the joy that we share is in using recent scientific knowledge and translating it into practical solutions for these populations, like, tomorrow.”

Advanced Biotics’ Daily Microbiome Booster comes in the form of a handy sachet which contains a powder of collagen peptides and a heat-inactivated strain of Lactobacillus Plantarum​ (or Immuno-LP20), alongside two prebiotics - partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG) and Bimuno (galactooligosaccharides (GOS)).

Van Eekelen explains the product is easy for him to integrate into his programme: “The product is also very easy to use and it’s very stable so people can use it in all circumstances – they can put it in their breakfast, their coffee, in water – making it very practical and very handy and easy for people to include in their daily routine which is really important.”

In the next few months the psychologist will start a new cohort of 20-30 shift workers on a nutrition programme with the Daily Microbiome Booster.

“We will start off with a baseline period where they don’t take the product and then they can start to take the product and we can look at the impacts on sleep, digestive health, cognitive health etc. We will take stool samples before and afterwards with a total time of trial being around four to five months.

“The exciting part of it is – and this is something I always try to include in my work – is to be on the forefront of scientific knowledge and to translate that into practical solutions for people at work.”

Gut health in health and safety

Van Eekelen notes this could open the door to a solution to safety, as well as health issues.

“This is an important incentive to us to use this product is it could relate to the safety issues which come along with shift work, especially in safety sensitive sectors such as aviation, transport, nuclear and the chemical industry.

“If we can improve results in fatigue, alertness and cognitive function, that could well contribute towards fatigue-risk management.

“Every Aviation company has to have a fatigue-risk management protocol implemented and sectors like that are always on the lookout for how to minimise safety risk and if we can impact that then we have another huge impact area.”

He adds: “The incentive for us is to broaden our scope when it comes to conducting these programmes, because I’m really convinced that nutrition interventions are really a powerful way, especially if we include this tangible product, for improving health and safety.

“In Europe 15-20% of the total workforce work in shifts so it’s a significant proportion of the working population."

Dutch R&D loan

Berend Tillema, co-founder & head of R&D at Advanced Biotics, says the company’s own consumer study indicates that 60-70% of those who use the Daily Microbiome Booster daily see an improvement in their sleep quality, while 50-60% of sports people who use the product daily report higher energy levels.

But next the company wants to create solid data with further studies, and that’s where their recently achieved Dutch R&D loan comes in.

They will conduct a series of studies into the impact of the product on the health of shift workers – first with a simulated shift work study using students, then with nurses on night shift, and then into other shift work populations.

Tillema added: "We are also on the look out for more companies that want to get involved in trials like this, to improve the health of their workforce."

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