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Understanding the microbiome as the ‘Gateway to Wellness’

The human microbiome is gaining increasing traction with wellness-conscious consumers around the world. Historically viewed as being on the periphery of mainstream scientific research, the microbiome and its wider role in general health and wellness are now very much at the forefront of clinical research, with over 800 peer-reviewed scientific publications on the topic published to date.1

Increasing numbers of health areas are being linked to these complex communities of microorganisms that live in (and on) our bodies. Most of the research published to date relates to the gut microbiome, but recently the evidence base has grown for other microbial ecologies, including those of the skin, lung and oral cavity, to name a few.

From a commercial standpoint, awareness amongst consumers of the importance of ‘good’ gut bacteria and maintaining a healthy microbiome has exploded too, with the global probiotics market predicted to grow by 6.9 percent CAGR to reach a total of $77 billion by 2025.2 Asia Pacific is poised to be the fastest growing region in the probiotic market,3 and China holds an estimated 35.4 percent of Asia Pacific probiotic market, helping drive the region’s estimated 8.5 percent CAGR through 2022.4

In this article Daniel Ramón Vidal, Vice President of R&D Health & Wellness at ADM, discusses the latest clinical and consumer research in this field, the implications and opportunities it brings for the supplements market, and how ADM is rising to the challenge of creating microbiome solutions that are supported by robust pre-clinical and clinical evidence.

The Microbiome and Weight Management

Over the past 12 months the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed consumers’ ideas of what personal health and wellness really means. Many are making increasingly educated and mindful decisions toward foods, beverages and supplements that could promote physical, mental and emotional wellness by choosing products that they associate with specific concerns such as weight management, mind health and immune function. Indeed, according to the latest research from ADM’s proprietary OutsideVoiceSM consumer insights platform, close to a third of respondents say they have become more conscious of their weight because of the pandemic.5 As evidence about the microbiome’s potential involvement in helping to maintain a healthy weight continues to grow, supplement producers can invest in new, innovative and effective solutions that can support consumers’ nutritional needs.

Consumers we spoke to are becoming more focused on weight, not just because of its COVID-19 morbidity factor, but also because of stay-at-home restrictions, lack of exercise and emotional eating all negatively impact weight and health. ADM’s proprietary and award-winning microbiome solution, BPL1 (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145) is a prime example of the application of extensive pre-clinical research to create an ingredient that targets factors related to consumer concerns surrounding metabolic health and weight management. Two clinical trials6 have demonstrated potential beneficial effects of BPL1 in multiple markers that are linked to metabolic health, including waist circumference (heat-treated BPL1) abdominal fat mass proportion (live BPL1 in Prader Willi children) and BMI (live BPL1). This, along with BPL1’s suitability for use in a wide range of formats, including capsules, sachets and certain dairy products, make the ingredient both an effective and practical nutritional supplement solution. ADM also offers a heat-treated (postbiotic) version of BPL1 that adds greater flexibility for product developers in the food, beverage and supplement industries, as it can be added at any stage of the formulation process without risking damage during processing.

The Microbiome and the Mind

Weight management isn’t the only growing consumer concern; the uncertainty and stress brought on by the outbreak of COVID-19 has focused clinical and consumer attention on the issue of mental health.

Almost half of global consumers in a survey reported suffering heightened anxiety as a result of the pandemic, while 24 percent cited more frequent feelings of depression, with many seeking out food, beverage and supplements with ingredients that can help alleviate anxiety, stress relief, and other lifestyle-related considerations such as sleep and relaxation.7 At the same time, the huge increase in people working from home and the blurring of work and home life has driven a demand for solutions that can offer benefits linked to cognitive performance such as memory and alertness.

The Microbiome and Immunity

The final lens through which researchers and consumers are examining the potential of the microbiome is immunity. A healthy gut microbiome has been shown to support the normal functioning of the immune system by aiding in the fight against infections and maintenance of a robust intestinal barrier. There is a growing evidence base for the role of the microbiome influencing the immune system. As with other areas such as weight management and cognitive health, knowledge of the close ties between gut health and immunity is increasingly entering the mainstream, accelerated by anxieties associated with the spread of COVID-19.

This growing awareness of the gut microbiome as a gateway to various aspects of wellness looks set to propel products containing pro-, pre- and postbiotics to the top of the food, beverage and supplement trends list in 2021. ADM is already well positioned to address this demand with its wide range of microbiome solutions, which are backed by robust pre-clinical and clinical research.

Paving the Way for the Supplements of Tomorrow

The events of 2020 have resulted in wide reaching changes in consumer opinion, the implications of which will shape the supplement market for years to come.

At ADM, we are continuing to invest in proprietary microbiome research to support the expansion of data in this field and the development of innovative new microbiome solutions. As we continue to understand more about the microbiome and its impact and influence on health areas, the advancements we are making now will help the industry address ever changing trends and open new paths to explore the microbiome as a potential ‘gateway to wellness’. [APBN]


  1. www.pubmed.gov. Search term (microbiome) AND (health) filtered by Clinical Trial and Humans.
  2. The Hartman Consumer Research October 2020, slide 79.
  3. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/probiotic-market-advanced-technologies-and-global-market-69.shtml
  4. Industry, A. (2021). Growth In The Global Probiotic Market Highlights Potential In Latin America And Asia – Asia Pacific Food Industry. Asia Pacific Food Industry. Retrieved 8 March 2021, from https://apfoodonline.com/growth-global-probiotic-market-highlights-potential-latin-america-asia/.
  5. The Hartman Consumer Research October 2020, slide 82.
  6. 2019 Pedret. Pedret A, Valls RM, Calderón-Pérez L, et al. Effects of daily consumption of the probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145 on anthropometric adiposity biomarkers in abdominally obese subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2019;43(9):1863‐1868. doi:10.1038/s41366-018-0220-0 2020 Amat-Bou. Amat-Bou, M.; Garcia-Ribera, S.; Climent, E.; Piquer-Garcia, I.; Corripio, R.; Sanchez-Infantes, D.; Villalta, L.; Elias, M.; Jiménez-Chillarón, J.C.; Chenoll, E.; Ramón, D.; Ibañez, L.; Ramon-Krauel, M.; Lerin, C. Effects of Bifidobacterium animalis Subsp. lactis (BPL1) Supplementation in Children and Adolescents with Prader–Willi Syndrome: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Nutrients 2020, 12, 3123
  7. The Hartman Consumer Research October 2020, slide 78.

About the Author

Daniel Ramón Vidal, Vice President of R&D Health & Wellness at ADM.