Certain peptides - molecules consisting of a two or more amino acids - have been receiving attention from the scientific community for their bioactive potential, for instance lowering blood pressure or preventing dental caries. But there have also been indications that some peptides could function as prebiotics.
While this is an area in which not much research has been conducted to date, Pretima Titoria, section manager for Leatherhead's ingredients and product innovation group, told NutraIngredients.com that a literature search showed up references to some peptides of potential. These include glycomacropeptide, caseinophosphopeptides, and lactoferrin factions.
Leatherhead's own studies have also show that a whey protein isolate-derived peptide has shown prebiotic potential.
"The aim of the research project is to look at whether a combination of an oligosaccharide and a peptide as a prebiotic would produce a synergistic effect in promoting the growth of positive bacteria," said Titoria.
However a major hindrance to the use of peptides in this way is that they are absorbed in the stomach and therefore, even if they do have prebiotic potential, do not make it to the colon in order to exert it.
One line of enquiry is whether the oligosaccharides and peptides could form stable compounds that survive the stomach environment.
If successful, the research could open up new areas within prebiotics - as well as in synbiotics - that is, the combination of probiotics and prebiotics to improve the survival of probiotic organisms by providing specific substrate for its fermentation.
However although she said that a follow-up to the initial 12-month project is a possibility if the results are encouraging, Titoria added that the overall impact for industry at large is "still very much debatable, because not much work has been done in this are, hence the purpose of this initiative is to investigate this further".
The researchers are proposing a three-stage experimental approach: assessment of peptide-oligosaccharide blends in the gastrointentinal system for their stability, digestibility, and degree of fragmentation (with different blending and co-processing methods evaluated); screening of the prebiotics for their positive influence on gut microflora; and evaluation of successful peptide-oligosaccharide blends in food systems.
Leatherhead is calling for expressions of interest from industry interested in collaborating on the project by February 19. Another concurrent collaboration, covered by NutraIngredients.com yesterday, proposes to research microencapsulation technologies for probiotics.
For more information, contact Pretima Titoria