Presenting to delegates in Copenhagen, Dr Ouwehand, a technical fellow and research manager at the firm, argued that for some in the industry as long as it works, that’s all that matters.
But as a scientist Dr Ouwehand points to previous work, where the assumption was that there was a good understanding of how probiotics work.
“That is not the case,” he explains. “Scientists can make hypotheses, propose mechanisms but the real proof seems to be lacking.
“The main issue is does the mechanism need to be known? Scientists will say ‘yes’ because it’s interesting but that’s not good enough. You could argue that as long as it works, we are happy.
Looking ahead, Dr Ouwehand points to a need to know in order to create different probiotic combinations, combining them with other components that affect the mechanisms in different ways.
Regulatory speaking, the mechanisms particularly resonate with agencies such as The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA), who are scrutinising probiotic science much more intensely in a response to their increasing popularity.
Dr Ouwehand’s presentation entitled ‘Mechanisms of probiotic action: Driving the development for reliable health benefits for probiotics,’ looks toward the future in which he would like to see the selection of more effective probiotic strains and the optimisation of probiotic product manufacturing and quality assurance.
He also mentions the need to drive the improved design of probiotic formulation, and support the design of effective clinical trials with the best chance of realising benefits to human health.
“In the future, when we understand the general mechanisms, we may be able to say a person’s genetic make-up or microbiota may determine a certain probiotic mechanism of action and associated risk of disease,” he said.
“So how can we optimise that both in research and the targeting of consumers that would benefit the most? But that is further down the road.”