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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Feeding a good gut: Functional beverages lead innovation

Increasingly, consumers focus on the mind-gut connection as they seek beverages that support their health.

We've seen it many times before: Innovation begins in the beverage aisle and the hottest trends come to life in a sea of colorful branding, clever names and, more and more, innovative formulations that woo customers with a promise that goes beyond simple refreshment.

Never has this been truer than in the past few years when functional beverages have led the way in product innovation—often straddling the line between food and supplement as they strive to give consumers the wellness they seek in drink rather than pill form.

With people now honing in on the importance of the mind-gut connection and its impact on health and immunity, beverage brands are still relying on the established gut heroes, probiotics, as well as upping their appeal with the addition of another gut stalwart: fiber.

Prebiotics (fiber's sexier-sounding subcategory) in particular, are the reason that these beverages stand out. From a pro- and prebiotic packed non-dairy nut and seedmilk, to a functional fiber-rich shot or a soda that stands behind its clinically tested dose of prebiotics, feast your eyes on the future of drinkable fiber.

And here it is back to the brain

Whole healthy cycles matter to the gut just as they do with sleep. A stress-gut reaction exists like that of the sleep cycle, in which stress impairs sleep and sleep deprivation exacerbates stress.

Stress depresses immunity, inflaming the gut, where 70% of immune function resides. Recent research correlates microbiome changes to increased stress hormones.

"The dream would be to promote mental health in an accessible manner by targeting the microbiome, likely through diet and psychobiotic supplementation. While we have had some promising results with psychobiotics—both in animals and in humans—I think there's still a long road ahead of us, especially in terms of understanding and indeed tracking the mechanisms of psychobiotics," says Thomaz Bastiaanssen, Ph.D., postdoctoral bioinformatician in the professor John F. Cryan group at APC Microbiome Ireland and lead author of the paper.

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