Gut health problems are increasingly common. One global survey found more than 40% of people have digestive complaints such as gas, constipation and diarrhoea that negatively affect their lives.1 Another series of surveys found the proportion of consumers who are satisfied with their digestive health fell six percentage points from 2018 to 2020, culminating in 50% of people expressing dissatisfaction.2
Many consumers understand the importance of good digestive health. Eighty percent of respondents to a global survey said good gut health can reduce the chance of becoming ill.3 For 24% of consumers, gut health is the most important aspect of their overall health4. A further 48% of consumers recognize the importance of digestive health but place greater value on another aspect of their wellbeing.
Growing widespread recognition of the importance of digesting health is shaping consumer behaviour and purchasing habits. In 2020, 43% of polled consumers changed their diets to improve digestive health, up from 22% in 2018. The proportion of consumers interested in products with a digestive health claim rose from 50% to 65% over the same time period. More than half of people in another survey conducted in 2021 said they would prioritise healthy digestion more over the next six months than in the past.
The search for ways to improve gut health is leading consumers to probiotics. A survey found two thirds of people are familiar with probiotics, and one third of people already try to consume them. Gut health is the top reason for taking probiotics, with 51% of consumers citing it as their motivation.
While many people already take probiotics to improve their gut health, there remains a big opportunity to convert more consumers and ensure repeat purchases by existing users. Effective, clinically validated ingredients are needed to boost uptake, with many consumers citing underwhelming experiences in the past and the belief that the products will not help them to explain why they do not take probiotics.
Making the case for a probiotic
The evidence exists to dispel doubts about the effectiveness of natural probiotics in the management of gut health. Notably, there are decades worth of evidence on the use of Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast first isolated by a French microbiologist in the 1920s. The microbiologist observed that people who drank a certain tea were unaffected by cholera, leading him to isolate the strain for further study.
Since then, researchers have performed and published more than 400 studies of the yeast. The strain was made available as a prescription anti-diarrhea therapy in the 1960s and is now available as a dietary supplement.
A meta-analysis of hundreds of clinical trials found S. boulardii has one of the highest success rates of all probiotics, with 80% of studies finding it to be effective.5 The average clinical success rate for probiotics is around 50%. The success rate of S. boulardii is underpinned by studies that have shown the yeast to improve outcomes in both infants and adults with conditions including diarrhoea and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).6–9
Angel Yeast, the largest yeast extract supplier in the world, is advancing understanding of the effects of S. boulardii, including by collaborating with researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China to assess its impact on IBD. The project built on the clinical evidence of the beneficial effects of Angel Yeast’s patented yeast-based probiotic by assessing the mechanisms of action in IBD.10
The researchers fed humanised mice with colitis an S. boulardii-supplement diet for 16 days. Use of the probiotic reduced colon damage and regulated inflammatory responses through the modulation of the cytokine profile. Digging deeper, the team linked the changes to an altered microbiome composition and the production of short-chain fatty acid metabolites, levels of increased after administration of the yeast.
Bringing shelf-stable products to market
The studies illustrate the potential to use S. boulardii in the management of IBD and multiple forms of diarrhoea, including antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, diarrhoea due to Clostridium difficile infection and traveller's diarrhoea. S. boulardii is particularly well suited for the management of digestive health while travelling because, as it is highly stable, it is a rare example of a probiotic that can be stored outside of the refrigerator.
Manufacturers that partner with Angel Yeast to source S. boulardii will unlock opportunities to develop capsules, sticks and sachets that address the needs of the growing number of people who are looking to probiotics to improve their gut health.
1. A good gut feeling: why digestive health is the next wellness frontier.
2. FMCG gurus: The Evolution of Digestive Health in 2020. FMCG Gurus (2021).
3. New study finds consumer interest, demand for products that support the immune system increased since pandemic began.
4. IFIC survey: Consumer insights on gut health and probiotics. Food Insight (2022).
5. Saccharomyces Boulardii, yeast probiotics excellent at anti-diarrhea.
6. Sivananthan, K. & Petersen, A. M. Review of Saccharomyces boulardii as a treatment option in IBD. Immunopharmacol. Immunotoxicol. 40, 465–475 (2018).
7. McFarland, L. V., Karakan, T. & Karatas, A. Strain-specific and outcome-specific efficacy of probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. EClinicalMedicine 41, 101154 (2021).
8. McFarland, L. V. Systematic review and meta-analysis of Saccharomyces boulardii in adult patients. World J. Gastroenterol. 16, 2202–2222 (2010).
9. Szajewska, H., Skórka, A. & Dylag, M. Meta-analysis: Saccharomyces boulardii for treating acute diarrhoea in children. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 25, 257–264 (2007).
10. Li, B. et al. Saccharomyces boulardii alleviates DSS-induced intestinal barrier dysfunction and inflammation in humanized mice. Food Funct. 13, 102–112 (2022).