Results of this research further contribute to evidence pointing to the immune-boosting benefits of Wellmune, especially in children.
The Irish Kerry Group acquired Wellmune from US-based Biothera in October last year.
The ingredient is a natural carbohydrate originating from the cell wall of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast extracted via a patented manufacturing process. The company says its molecular structure is important to receptor binding and immune cell response.
These latest unpublished results follow a randomised clinical trial with three- and four-olds given follow-up formula containing a combination of DHA, prebiotics, and yeast beta-glucan. The results suggest the combination may support the immune systems of children.
Commenting on the latest study, Dr Don Cox, senior vice president of research and development for Wellmune, said: “Combined with previous research, it demonstrates the clinical evidence behind the natural ingredient’s ability to keep kids healthy and shorten the duration of illness.”
The ingredient is available in both soluble and dispersible powder forms, and can be used in food and beverages including juice, smoothies, sports drinks and other functional beverages. Wellmune has regulatory approval including Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status in the U.S. and novel food approval in Europe and China.
The study, conducted by US clinical research organisation H&J CRO International, set out to test the ability of baker’s yeast beta glucan (BYBG) to reduce the number of episodes of common childhood illness.
174 subjects (12-48 months old) who had experienced at least two episodes of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in the previous three months were enrolled and placed in one of two treatment groups (35 or 75 mg BYBG per day) or placebo.
The primary study outcome was the number of subjects that did not experience common childhood infectious illness episodes during the study. Secondary outcomes included number of episodes and duration of both total infections and URTIs.
A total of 156 subjects (73 boys and 83 girls) completed the study. Children in the BYBG groups were found to be healthier during the study period than those in the placebo group. During the 12-week course of the study, 85% of children in the placebo group experienced one or more episodes of infectious illness.
In contrast, 47% and 32% of children in the BYBG treatment groups experienced infectious illnesses - much less than the placebo group.
Results for the placebo group found a significantly higher URTI incidence per child and more days with URTI symptoms compared to either BYBG group.
Mechanism of action
The ingredient’s mechanism of action focuses on strengthening the immune cells, according to the paper. Once swallowed, immune cells in the gastrointestinal tract take up the ingredient and transport it to immune organs throughout the body.
While in the immune organs, immune cells (macrophages) digest the ingredient into smaller fragments. The fragments bind to neutrophils via complement receptor 3 (CR3).
“By supporting the immune system, the various immune effector cells can more effectively do their job of quickly responding to an immune challenge," Cox told us. "The end result is that most immune challenges are eliminated before these can lead to URTI events.”
The study was presented at the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) Clinical Nutrition Week 2016 last week.