What is the role of Bifidobacteria in health and wellbeing?

Not intended for consumer purposes.

Health supplement formulators must shape their product development around the needs of the market, and for consumers today, this should inspire a core focus on gut health. 

In markets around the world, the health audience is more engaged with physical and mental wellbeing than ever before, and the importance of a healthy, well-supported gut microbiome is coming to the fore. This shifting attitude puts bifidobacteria into the spotlight – but what do we know about this frequently talked of bacteria?

The gut microbiome is a complex and ever-shifting community of organisms in the gastrointestinal tract and includes many trillions of bacteria.

There are several hundred bacterial strains found in the gastrointestinal tract that are referred to as ‘good bacteria’, or more commonly known as probiotics. These ‘good bacteria’ can positively influence numerous areas of health in the host, from gastrointestinal to immunity and beyond, and therefore play an important role in physical and mental health. Conversely, other types of bacteria in the gut microbiome do not confer these benefits. 

Since the gut is a finite space, various factors can influence the diversity of its bacterial composition for the better or worse of the host. The term gut health can refer to many conditions of the intestinal environment. One aspect frequently referred to is the balance of beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria. Naturally, it is advantageous to have greater diversity alongside more beneficial bacteria in place of non-beneficial bacteria. 

With shoppers becoming more knowledgeable on the role of gut bacteria, prebiotics offer a strong, scientifically backed way to bring gut health support to a product’s benefits. The multi award-winning Bimuno® GOS is a great example of how simple it can be to connect with the needs of the market. The most studied commercially available galactooligosaccharide, Bimuno GOS selectively nourishes bifidobacteria. 

What are bifidobacteria?

Bifidobacteria are a group of rod-shaped bacteria that reside in the gut microbiome, with over 50 recognised species within the genus. Bifidobacteria was first isolated in 1899 by Henri Tissier, a scientist and paediatrician at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. 

These microbes, naturally present in the human gut, are one of the first to inhabit the gastrointestinal tract in newborns. Perfectly adapted to survive in the hostile environment of the human digestive tract, bifidobacteria are anaerobic, and thrive in an oxygen-free environment. 

Different types of bacteria are nourished by different nutrients or substrates, which underlines the importance of diversity in the diet. Bifidobacteria, for example, are fuelled by prebiotic fibre and complex carbohydrates, metabolising these and releasing important short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the process.

Comprehensive scientific study has uncovered that bacteria in the Bifidobacterium genus exert health-promoting effects on the host, making it a particularly advantageous group of bacteria and consequently, an important focus for health and nutrition brands. As a result, Bifidobacterium strains are often used in probiotic finished products, which introduce more beneficial bacteria to the gut microbiome through external delivery.

What are the benefits of bifidobacteria?

Studies into the role and influence of the bacteria are uncovering a wide array of health advantages. Excitingly for health and wellness brands, gut health science is still advancing at speed, which indicates there could be much further to go in understanding the full scale of influence that bifidobacteria have.

The group is known to support digestive health by playing a role in the degradation of complex carbohydrates that are difficult for the body to digest, in turn, giving rise to the potential to positively modulate commonly reported gastrointestinal health symptoms such as bloating and digestive discomfort.

Demonstrating its non-digestive influences, the genus is believed to play a role in supporting immune function, the body’s natural lines of defence against illness. 

As well as influencing the immune system’s response during formative years, this includes protecting the host against pathogens through competitive exclusion, the creation of health-promoting SCFAs through breaking down non-digestible dietary carbohydrates, protecting the integrity of the gut barrier and cross-feeding other health-promoting species of bacteria. 

Furthermore, bifidobacteria are understood to play a role in mental health and cognition through supporting the gut-brain axis, the bi-directional communication between the gut microbiome and the brain. The gut microbiome is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals that are important for brain function. 

How can formulators build bifidobacteria support into product formulation?

When developing the next generation of health and nutrition supplements, prebiotics, which can fuel health positive bacteria, are an extremely valuable avenue of exploration. 

Bimuno GOS selectively nourishes bifidobacteria, and its safety and efficacy are backed by a market-leading portfolio of published studies, numbering in excess of 110. As a result of this scientific backing, which includes more than 20 clinical studies, Bimuno GOS stands out as the most comprehensively researched ingredient of its kind.

Versatile and suitable for a wide range of applications, Bimuno GOS can be used to create prebiotic supplements, yoghurts and smoothies, as well as prebiotic baked goods, snacks and athletic health products. 

Crucially, the stability of Bimuno GOS makes it ideal to pair with a probiotic ingredient, to develop synbiotic products, which combine the synergistic effects of prebiotics and probiotics in one standalone product. Click here to read our blog on synbiotics, and the significant commercial opportunities the category presents for health and nutrition formulators.

Contact the Clasado Biosciences team today to learn more.