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Patents File

This month's "Patents File" by Judy Davis takes a look at recent patents in the field of pre- and probiotics.

GI Health Boosters
Now that the health benefits of probiotics have been firmly established, consumers are looking to gastro-intestinal (GI) health products with additional synergism benefits. A product patented by Metagenics Incorporated in California aims to provide this. The patent describes a product containing probiotic microorganisms in combination with immunologically active immunoglobulins and soluble dietary fibre. According to the patent, the immunoglobulins bind and inactivate pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi detrimental to gastrointestinal health, whilst the soluble fibre promotes growth of beneficial intestinal microflora, decreases pH of the GI tract and improves cholesterol metabolism. The preferred probiotic microorganisms are Lactobacillus acidophilus strain NCFM, and Bifidobacterium adolescentis. The immunoglobulins are sourced from bovine whey, and the soluble fibre is a combination selected from inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, pectin and guar gum. (US Patent 6,180,099)

Probiotic Sports Drinks
This patent from Probi AB in Sweden relates to a novel application for the use of probiotic microorganisms ­ namely, in sports drinks. The products are aimed largely at endurance athletes involved in sports such as marathon running, skiing and cycling, as this is the group said to suffer most with gastrointestinal disturbances caused by the arduous training regimes. The sports drink contains ingredients designed to replace nutrients typically lost during endurance events and training, such as carbohydrates, proteins and micronutrient vitamins and minerals. Preferred carbohydrates are the so-called slow carbohydrates having a low glycaemic index; proteins are sourced from whey protein isolate; and micronutrients include vitamins C and E, ß-carotene, pyridoxine, sodium, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc.

Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 9843 is the preferred probiotic microorganism. The drink is designed to be consumed before or after, but not during exercise. According to the inventors, this product helps to relieve the stress symptoms associated with long physical exercise, and particularly gastrointestinal stress. (PCT Patent Application WO 00/70972)

D-tagatose is a keto-hexose used as a reduced-calorie sweetener and bulking agent. Researchers working for MD Foods are now claiming its use as a prebiotic food ingredient. According to their recent patent application, only 15-20 per cent of ingested D-tagatose is absorbed from the small intestine, the major part being fermented in the colon by indigenous microflora, resulting in production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The novelty of D-tagatose is said to be that this fermentation induces a unique profile of SCFAs, containing a high proportion of butyrate, thought to be beneficial to colon health and to possess anti-carcinogenic activity. Animal and human studies documented in the patent also indicate that D-tagatose stimulates growth of probiotic lactobacilli and other lactic acid bacteria. The ingredient has a sweetness potential similar to that of sucrose, and can be used in products such as breakfast cereals, yoghurts, confectionery, desserts, health drinks and energy bars. (European Patent Application 1 056 358)

Encapsulated Probiotics
The ability to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract is prerequisite for successful probiotics. According to a patent from the Japanese company Bingu Gure KK, survival can be ensured by using encapsulation. The patent describes a yoghurt containing lactobacilli encapsulated in an acid-resistant enteric coating, designed to enable the bacteria to survive contact with gastric juices produced by the stomach and reach the intestines in a viable condition. The specific density of the yoghurt is controlled to be similar to that of the capsules, in order to ensure uniform dispersion of the capsules in the yoghurt. (Japanese Patent Application 2000-116320)

Cholesterol Reduction
Ganeden Biotech Inc. has patented probiotic compositions containing , aimed specifically at lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in blood. Bacillus coagulans is a non-pathogenic Gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium that produces lactic acid. Its spore-forming ability is utilised in this invention, as the spores are relatively resistant to heat and other adverse conditions, making them ideal for surviving harsh processing conditions and long storage. The formulations also include bifidogenic oligosaccharides, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, which, as well as promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, are thought to exert a triglyceride-lowering effect. The combination of probiotic Bacillus coagulans and fructo-oligosaccharides is thought to act synergistically to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (European Patent Application EP 1 067 945)

This information has been compiled by Leatherhead Food Research Association. For further information, contact:
Judy Davis
Leatherhead Food Research
Tel: +44 (0)1372 822241

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