The joint research intends to identify food ingredients that work with bacteria that Holobiome say communicate via neurotransmitter signalling, exerting a calming influence in the process.
Unilever will then look to enhance these across food products and refreshments in its portfolio, with the long-term aim of naturally increasing levels of calming neurotransmitters in the gut, and thereby boosting mental wellbeing.
Stress and anxiety
Carla Hilhorst, Executive Vice President R&D Foods & Refreshment at Unilever, said: “More than 70% of consumers are concerned that stress and anxiety are having an impact on their health.
“In turn, consumers are increasingly seeking food and drink products that can have a positive impact on their overall health and mental wellbeing.
“Through our partnership with Holobiome, we look forward to understanding more about the way ingredients interact with the gut microbiome.
“This research offers exciting opportunities for our future food and drink formulations enabling us to deliver boldly healthier products.”
Ingredients with a prebiotic potential will be identified in the screening process, as these will be food for the gut’s beneficial microbes.
Dietary fibres and some polyphenols currently used in Unilever’s products are classified as prebiotics.
‘You are what you eat’
Philip Strandwitz, Holobiome CEO and co-founder, said: “Everyone knows the saying ‘You are what you eat’. The microbiome is an important part of that relationship, and it appears to impact nearly every aspect of our biology.
“As such, it’s important to understand how the food we eat influences our microbial passengers and the important functions they perform.
“If we can map this out at an individual ingredient level, there’s an opportunity to make more informed dietary choices and improve health via multiple marketplaces.
“Our platform – powered by our Human Microbiome Atlas, which contains nearly all known members of the gut microbiome – allows us to make this map for specific functions related to the gut-brain-axis. We’re excited to work with Unilever and help explore the future of food.”
The study is likely to be carried out throughout 2022, with results due by the end of the year.