UK firm develops ‘pickled grain’ probiotics

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotic bacteria, Irritable bowel syndrome, Lactobacillus

UK start-up Symprove is marketing a barley drink featuring probiotics sourced from ‘pickled grain’ technology developed for the animal feed industry.

The drink sells for about €21 per bottle and is the subject of clinical trials being conducted at Kings College in London linking the product and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Ingvar Bjarnason is leading the research project and he told NutraIngredients he had selected Symprove for the King's College-funded study because it had the most “viable bacteria”.

There are four Lactobacillus​ strains in Symprove - L. casei​, L. acidophilus​, L. plantarum​, and E. faecium​.

The research would be completed in 8-10 months, he said, for the product that has a shelf-life of five months. More than 300 people would be involved.

The product which the company says contains 10bn colony forming units (CFUs) per 50ml serving, is being sold via the internet and telephone sales but does not as yet have a retail presence.

Symprove chairman Barry Smith said Symprove had developed out of work using germinated grain which was fed to livestock as an alternative to other feeds that typically contained artificial supplements and hormones.

Pickling the germinated grain with lactic acids extended its shelf life and it was then noted that a beneficial side-effect was the growth of probiotic strains drawn form the Lactobacillus​ genus. Animals on this diet also exhibited greater lean weight gain and less digestive problems.

Smith commercialised this product as MultiGerm and Lactosym which were the animal-world precursors to Symprove.

“The probiotic bacteria in Symprove are grown on a pasteurised extract of barley which is carefully optimised to create the best possible environment for the four varieties of probiotic bacteria we use,”​ the company notes on its website.

“This extract is then processed to produce a drink containing the four probiotics in their live, active state. The only things we add are Vitamin C, citrate and sorbate which are preservatives found in berries and other fruits.”

The company said about one in five people that tried the product encountered “loosening of stools”​ during the first week of using the product.

Better than drugs

Symprove managing director, Michael Le Brocq, said the company had taken a clinical, drug-like approach to testing.

The food evaluation studies that King’s are running read like pharmaceutical protocols, sure it’s a risk but if we turn out to be the first probiotic with hard data in IBS then it will be worth it for the consumer and for us as a business,”​ he said.

"Ultimately the consumer will support those brands they trust, and I think trust in this space will come from transparency, the opportunity is to do a better job of this than pharma did; as an industry we don’t want to end up with the bad public perception that drugs companies now have due to over-egging their claims and twisting the science."

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