Editor's Spotlight: Nutra News Review

February Nutra News Review: Gut-brain axis, Probiotic claims ... and CBD laws - LISTEN NOW

By Nathan Gray, Will Chu and Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

The NutraIngredients editor's give their rundown of the most important and engaging content from last month. Giving you the inside track on the top news and most important industry analysis in February.

Listen to Nathan Gray, Nikki Cutler, and Will Chu rundown their highlights of February's top news...

1. Gut-brain axis: Human data

A landmark study last month provided further evidence of the link between gut bacteria and mental health. In the study, researchers from Belgium identified gut bacteria’s ability to produce neuroactive compounds that can interact with our brain - and thus determine behaviour and feelings.

What is so significant about this study is the findings were observed in humans with several groups of bacteria identified that varied with human depression and quality of life across populations.

Before this, gut microbiome-brain communication has mostly been explored in animal models. However, this latest study shows, the progress made in this area is exciting as advances in sequencing technology enable the exploration of the gut microbiota’s role in a range of neurological disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers acknowledged that their approach did not allow testing for causality nor directionality of microbiota–gut–brain axis interactions.

But it did provide a number of associations that took into account the potential effects of antidepressant medication.

The researchers, led by Professor Jeroen Raes from the University of Leuven added that they also showed the existence of several microbial pathways, including tryptophan metabolism. These pathways are enriched in human gut-associated microorganisms, indicating a potential positive role in boosting host–microbe relationships. Read more.

2. Probiotic claim hudles

Our Probiota event in Copenhagen took place during mid-February. During the three day event, delegates heard a lot about the marketing and regulation of probiotics from several experts, including Peter Wennstrom, founder of the Healthy Marketing Team.

Wennstrom pointed out that, in order to get around the health claim restrictions, companies are being creative and adding other ingredients into their products. For example we often see probiotic yogurts with added vitamin C and Calcium and Vitamin B6 and D so they can safely claim they will help the digestive system and immune system.

however, he pointed out this is a potentially dangerous route to go down for the long term future of probiotics.

“If we start making claims only based on vitamin content then people will just decide to buy the vitamins, which are cheaper,"​ he noted.

Wennstrom added that claims aren’t necessarily the most effective way for firms to get their message across to consumers and he thinks players in this industry should work on teaching consumers the benefits of maintaining good health in order to prevent illness.

“The important message to bring out is that we have too few of the good bacteria in our bodies because of the stresses and strains of modern life...That’s not about claims, that’s about education."

This point was backed up by Dr Gregory Leyer, chief scientific officer at UAS Labs, who said industry leaders have to work to change the mindsets of consumers to understand the importance to preventing illness and preventing the need to use pharmaceuticals. Read more.

3. CBD to be classed as novel food

News that the European Commission has reclassified cannabidiol as a novel food started off the month with a twist – and provided our most read story of the month overall.

CBD has been the trending globally for the last few years, and has been making a big impact in the last 6 months in particular, as more and more major food, pharma and consumer goods companies look to ride the wave.

But the new stance could from the Commission could mean CBD and hemp-derived food supplements cannot be legally sold within Europe unless they gain a novel food approval.

Now, whilst not an official ruling, a submission by the European Commission's Working Group of Novel Foods, has added the term cannabinoids to the Novel Foods and now states that “…extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated.

It adds that this applies to both extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient. This might include hemp seed oil.

It also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel.

EFSA are also currently considering a novel food application for CBD for use in food supplements in adults with a daily intake of up to 130 milligrams (mg), and its final opinion is expected from shortly.

So, if EFSA's opinion is positive, then the Commission will draft an implementing act that permits its use within seven months.

It’s important to note that this isn’t the end of the road for CBD in Europe then. Although many hoped CBD wouldn’t have to go through novel foods regulation, there is a strong sense that it the safety profile means an approval is likely. Read more.

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