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

Strategic Vision

The task force aims at providing recommendations for beneficial probiotics usage for various target groups.

Background

Probiotic bacteria may be defined as ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’ (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 growing public interest on probiotics needs to be sustained by a better scientific understanding on their role and mechanism of action.
  • Increase awareness of the real impact of probiotics direct/indirect effects on health.Three 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. J. Wells et al., 2016 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.

The task force is planning to organise a joint session on the ‘Gut-Brain Axis’ during the 40th European Congress for Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) Congress, in September 2018, Madrid, Spain, with the task forces on Nutrition, Immunity & Inflammation, Nutrition & Mental Performance and Prebiotics.

Achieved Results

  • The collaboration with the Prebiotics Task Force resulted in a Concise Monograph (Binns, 2013) that summarises the science and principles valid for prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics today. This publication is often used as teaching material by students and SMEs.
  • The output of the expert group on ‘Mechanism of Probiotics Action’ has been disseminated at the Beneficial Microbes Conference 2018 and at Probiota 2019.

Scientific Impact

  • The activity on ‘Gut Barrier Function’ produced 3 manuscripts (J.M. Wells et al., 2016, J. Köning et al., 2016, P.A. Bron et al., 2017) that have been cited altogether 311 times.
  • The supplement in Journal of Nutrition titled ‘Guidance for Assessing the Probiotics Beneficial Effects: How to Fill the Gap’ (J. Neu, 2010) provides guidelines to support the design of probiotics studies that are intended to examine probiotics interactions with the gut and the microbiome. The 5 articles featured in the supplement received 741 citations in total.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Michela Miani at mmiani@ilsieurope.be.

Task Force Members

*Scientific Advisor

Expert Groups

Joint Nutrition Cluster Activity on ‘Mechanistic Insights into the Gut-Brain Axis’ – In collaboration with Early-Life and Long-Term Health; Health Benefits Assessment of Foods; Nutrition, Immunity & Inflammation; Nutrition & Mental Performance; and Prebiotics Task Forces. – NEW

Background & Objectives

Currently, half of the literature available on the gut-brain axis is state-of-the-art reviews or correlative studies and comprehensive mechanistic insights underlining the bidirec tional communication between the gut and the brain are lacking.
In this context, several Nutrition Task Forces decided to join forces to understand where we stand today regarding the mechanisms and more specifically to:
focus on translational aspects from pre-clinical to clinical studies;
focus on lifespan-related changes (but not disease-related) in gut structure and function which play a role in long-term immune and brain health;
• discuss the nutritional and lifestyle interventions with positive impact on the lifespan gut structure/function and thus on immune and brain health.

Output

A workshop will bring together key experts from different fields of expertise to debate and discuss on the current knowledge and data gaps, followed by a live-streamed debate leading to the publication of a report/positon paper. A series of webinars will then be organised to discuss the identified gaps in more details.

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 stateof-the-art understanding of mechanisms of probiotic action to discuss related concepts
and to comment on future developments and research gaps.

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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