Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in the intestinal tract that are needed to maintain a healthy microbial balance in the gastrointestinal system for digestive health. More simply, probiotic bacteria kill off harmful bacteria that cause digestive problems.
Consumer awareness and education of probiotics is high, thanks in part to the prevalent marketing of yoghurt products. Mass-market consumers purchase yoghurt mainly for the widely promoted health benefits of probiotic strains. But health-conscious consumers also buy probiotic dietary supplements — primarily delivered in coated tablets or capsules — to the tune of more than $366 million in 2007 in the United States alone, according to Nutrition Business Journal.
Consumers are drawn to probiotics in supplement form for a variety of reasons. In addition to being low in calories, supplements have a longer shelf life than dairy products, and do not require refrigeration (in some cases) to keep their active status. Because so many probiotics are delivered in dairy, supplemental probiotics offer an excellent alternative for those with lactose intolerance.
Supplements offer a great assurance of live bacteria, too. A good-quality supplement will contain billions of live bacteria. One billion CFUs at time of consumption is a general minimum in the supplements industry, while it is usually undisclosed to consumers how much beneficial bacteria are in their cup of yoghurt.
Supplement delivery challenges
For a probiotic supplement to be most effective, however, a few challenges in the delivery must be addressed. First, products must contain sufficient live bacteria at the end of shelf life to meet claims. That means the supplement must remain dry, because once activated, the bacteria run their short life cycle and die. Unfortunately, probiotics in a dormant form are sensitive to moisture, which will induce the bacteria to activate.
Second, probiotics work better when activated in a specific area of the gastrointestinal tract. If possible, they need to survive through the acidic stomach and get to the colon to be beneficial. To achieve this in a dosage form, the release of the probiotic must be delayed.
Finally, research shows that probiotics work best when combined with prebiotics. This paired delivery is known as synbiotic. Sourced primarily from nondigestible carbohydrate fibres, prebiotics help promote the growth and activity of friendly bacteria that feed the beneficial bacteria of probiotics for greater effectiveness. In other words, prebiotics prepare the environment for probiotics to flourish and work at their best. However, prebiotic regimens are less common because they are new to the market and consumer awareness is low; thus products are difficult to find on the store shelves.
Two-in-one dosage form
Pre-Pro Combo, a probiotic with a delivery design answers all three of these challenges. It is a combination prebiotic and probiotic product. The two-supplements-in-one dosage form is an efficient way to offer consumers the additional benefit of convenience and paired products. It is also delivered in the Licaps capsule-in-a-capsule technology designed for preferred-time release of the ingredient, and with a 'moisture-defense system' that can help prevent premature activation of a probiotic's beneficial culture.
The technology uses a short-chain liquid-based prebiotic called fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS). FOS is derived from beet or cane sugar using non-GMO ingredients and a traditional natural fermentation method. The probiotic is a powder form of Lactobacillus acidophilus.
The delivery technology promotes effective prebiotic-probiotic synergy through the targeted release of the ingredients.
Shelf stability is one of the best things about this capsule. Many of today's probiotic supplements require refrigeration, which naturally helps the cultures maintain their freeze-dried state. However, the moisture-defense system's built-in protective properties allow for the maintenance of comparable stability at room temperature. Eliminating the need for refrigeration reduces expensive shipping and storage costs, and makes the product more convenient for consumers to use. The recommended temperature for maintaining this product is at or below 25°C.
Of course, sustained release and timed-release delivery will only work as well as the formulations of the ingredients and other components. Many ingredients are more bio-available in liquid form, but unfortunately, they might degrade if exposed to oxygen and/or moisture. Capsule-in-a-capsule technology is a one-dosage-form solution to many challenges on the road to creating effective multi-release supplements.
Jeff Taylor is manager of product development for Capsugel Liquids Group. www.capsugel.com