The new research was published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. It was the work of researchers associated with Nestlé Health Sciences, which funded the study.
It’s a common observation that the lion’s share of the body’s immune system activity (the percentages quoted vary) resides in the gut. Therefore, boosting gut health via nutritional interventions that foster the growth of beneficial bacteria and the resulting production of more beneficial short chain fatty acids is thought of as one way to improve immune system response.
To test the theory, the Nestlé scientists designed 12-week, placebo-controlled study using 5.2 grams/daily of partially hydrolyzed guar gum (Taiyo’s Sunfiber ingredient) as the test material.
The researchers recruited 96 healthy Japanese adults for the study. To be included in the study the subjects all had to score fairly high on a standardized model of job-related stress.
Fewer days down with a cold
The subjects recorded their number of days suffering cold symptoms in a diary. Stool and blood samples were collected an analyzed at baseline, at week six and again at the conclusion of the study.
The researchers found that the Sunfiber group had more symptom free days, and when they did have symptoms, those were subjectively of lower severity. The Sunfiber group showed higher levels of short chain fatty acids (butyric acid and propionic acid) in their stools, and showed lower levels of Interferon-γ in their blood.
“PHGG intake may affect immune function and suppress cold-like symptoms through the production of SCFAs in healthy adults,” the researchers concluded.
Tricky biomarkers to measure
Derek Timm, PhD, Taiyo’s technical sales director, said measuring short chain fatty acid production is always difficult because of the kinetics involved. But finding a greater overall SCFA production, as the researchers did in this study, is significant.
“SCFAs are somewhat difficult biomarkers to measure because the vast majority are absorbed in the large intestine, so human measurements are only residual in stool. Also, the gut microbiome composition impacts the production of SCFAs so there can be a wide range of individual variability,” Timm said.
“That said, significantly higher SCFAs relative to a placebo is noteworthy, but comparing absolute numbers across studies is often difficult due to the degree of variability among people. The significant differences compared to control indicate that higher SCFA production occurred,” he added.
Timm noted that the effects seen in the study relating to cold symptoms were relatively modest. But combining those with Sunfiber’s already well researched gut health benefits means that. “taking a modest dose of a prebiotic fiber is beneficial for general wellness. The type of health claims these results support are ‘helping support the immune system’ or ‘supports general wellness.’”
Source: European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2022; 26 (14): 5154-5163 DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_202207_29304
Continuous partially hydrolyzed guar gum intake reduces cold-like symptoms: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial in healthy adults
Authors: Sakai S, et al.