In-depth analyses of probiotic benefits, mechanisms and challenges aiming to advance probiotic knowledge at large

Background

Probiotic bacteria may be defined as ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’ (C. Hill et al., 2014). Consumers, the scientific community, regulators and the food industry show a sustained interest in these microorganisms and related functional effects.

Objectives

The task force aims to provide scientific perspectives for the assessment of probiotic impact on health through direct effects on the host and/or modulation of the (intestinal) microbiota. A better comprehension of underlying mechanisms of probiotic benefits contributes to the scientific health claim substantiation and can support successful study design.

Impact

  • The task force collaborates with other ILSI Europe task forces such as Prebiotics, Functional Foods and Nutrition, Immunity and Inflammation to combine expertise on the potential effects of probiotics in relevant areas such as digestion, absorption, immunity, brain / neuronal function, or appetite regulation, resulting in a multi-faceted approach. For instance, the Probiotics Task Force has contributed to the latest publication of the Nutrition, Immunity & Inflammation Task Force (R. Albers et al., 2013), which triggered several thousands of full text views. It describes how to select immune markers for future trials and provides a framework for the interpretation of outcomes.
  • The collaboration with the Prebiotics Task Force led to a joint Concise Monograph (N. Binns, 2013) that summarises the science and principles valid for prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics today. This successful publication (with more than 4,000 downloads from our website) was translated into Portuguese and Japanese.

What’s New

  • Two publications that examine the intestinal barrier, its role in health and disease and the potential impact of probiotics on intestinal barrier function were published recently, and a third has been accepted. The accepted manuscript describes the role of different defense mechanisms that support barrier function, how they are regulated and measured. It also focuses on biomarkers in blood, faeces or urine that can be used to assess intestinal permeability and epithelial integrity. J. König et al., 2016 discuss the role of intestinal permeability in common disorders such as infections with intestinal pathogens, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and food allergies. P. Bron et al., 2017 catalogue and categorise the lines of evidence available in literature for the role of probiotics in intestinal epithelial integrity and, consequently, their beneficial effects for the reduction of gastrointestinal disease symptoms.
  • A new activity proposal is under development, targeting the evaluation of approaches and combination of technologies useful for the prediction of individual responses to a (probiotic) intervention.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Tobias Recker at trecker@ilsieurope.be

Task Force Members

*Observer

Expert Groups

Mechanisms of Probiotic Action

Objectives

Despite a lack of approved health claims for probiotics in human nutrition, there is general consensus in the probiotic scientific community that specific strains exert documented functional effects and that some health benefits can even be considered a general probiotic trait. An increasing number of meta-analyses point in the direction that probiotics may reduce health risks (e.g. for respiratory tract infections, antibiotic associated diarrhoea and atopic eczema).

This expert group was set up to investigate what is currently known about the mechanisms of probiotics action (direct and indirect) in relation to demonstrated (clinical) benefits, to identify gaps in the current knowledge and provide suggestions for the future.

Activity

Experts are evaluating the latest data on probiotic mechanisms relevant for specific health benefits. Particular areas of interest include specificity of effects and learnings for future probiotic selection, studies and application.

Expected Output

The project is reviewing the current state-of-the-art understanding of mechanisms of probiotic action to discuss related concepts and to comment on future developments and research gaps. The output will be a peer-reviewed publication in a high impact journal.

Probiotics: Interplay with the Intestinal Barrier Function – Completed

Objectives

Intestinal barrier function and microbiota composition and activity can be affected, for example, by acute infections, antibiotic use, stress or other dietary factors. However, supplementation with appropriate probiotic strains could help to restore intestinal barrier integrity. An expert group has worked to determine the state-of-the-art research in intestinal barrier function and its role in health and disease and to investigate the potential impact of probiotics (direct and indirect) on intestinal barrier function.

Activity

The expert group subdivided the activity into three topics, addressing each topic in a separate manuscript. They fit together to form a whole picture:

Output

The group assessed the current evidence of probiotic-induced intestinal barrier enhancement and subsequent protective effects. The goal was to crystallise existing consensus, if any, to harmonise the validation of markers for intestinal barrier function and to pinpoint most relevant areas for future research. All three manuscripts have been published; one in the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, the second in Nature’s Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, and the third in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Expert Group Members

Mechanisms of Probiotic Action

Probiotics: Interplay with the Intestinal Barrier Function – Completed

* Dr Annick Mercenier, a former representative of Nestlé, and Dr Arjen Nauta, a former representative of FrieslandCampina, were also expert group members.

Posters

Monitoring Immune Modulation by Nutrition in General Population: Identifying and Substantiating Effects on Human Health

Exploring the Interactions between Probiotics and Health

Publications

All Publications

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