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Potential of probiotics goes beyond digestives.

NEW YORK -- The thought of bacteria usually evokes images of dirt and disease. But along with bad bacteria there are also the good kind, which are found in probiotics, and these favorable bacteria are needed to balance out the bad ones in order to produce a proper and healthy functioning gastrointestinal system. Supplements containing these "good" bacteria are becoming increasingly popular for consumers and manufacturers alike.

Estimates put the value of the global probiotics market for 2014 at $27.6 billion, with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3%, reaching $60.5 billion by 2022. The factors that are influencing this market growth include concerns over animal health and increasing diseases in the recent past.

Probiotics improve digestion and aid resistance against infectious diseases of the gut. Use of probiotics--the beneficial live bacteria that are introduced into the body--has become an increasingly common way to improve health and well-being. Probiotics are known to give partial protection against diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, allergies, colds, tooth decay and periodontal disease. Studies have even shown a direct correlation between gut microbes and central nervous system function, and researchers at the University of Missouri, using a zebrafish model, have determined that a common probiotic sold in supplements and yogurt can decrease stress-related behavior and anxiety. Studying how gut bacteria affect behavior in zebrafish could lead to a better understanding of how probiotics may affect the central nervous system in humans. Their results were recently published in Scientific Reports, an online journal of Nature.

"Zebrafish are an emerging model species for neurobehavioral studies, and their use is well established in drug screening," said Aaron Ericsson, director of the MU Metagenomics Center and a research assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. "Our study has shown that simple probiotics that we normally use to keep our digestive tract in sync could be beneficial to reducing our stress levels as well."

In a series of studies, researchers tested how zebrafish behaved after receiving doses of Lactobacillus plantarum, a common bacteria found in yogurt and probiotic supplements. In the first study, scientists added the bacteria to certain tanks housing zebrafish; other tanks of zebrafish received no probiotics. Then the researchers introduced environmental stressors to both groups, such as draining small amounts of water from the tank and overcrowding.

Gary Pigott, vice president of sales for Mason Vitamins, which is based in Miami Lakes, Fla., predicts that consumer demand for probiotic supplements will continue, but it will lessen for stronger doses. "It's a great category to be in, but higher-strength probiotics do not offer substantial health benefits, as we risk affecting the body's natural path to secreting normal digestive juices," he said.

Kathleen Brock, marketing and business development consultant for America's Naturals, said the company's Family Flora brand has seen "amazing growth in 2016, " as has the entire digestive category--double digits for most retailers--and Brock expects the trend to continue into the 2020s. "I also see room for growth in other categories for probiotics outside of digestives," she said. "Family Flora will roll out an oral probiotic in 2017 that will be in stores nationwide in March 2017. As the research continues, we are learning that "friendly bacteria" is not only in the gut, it is in our mouths and on our skin too. I fully anticipate that you will see growth in these categories as well for probiotics."

But with consumer demand growing, targeting those consumers is getting more difficult, according to Jeff Shirley, vice president of national accounts at iHealth. To deal with this obstacle, Shirley says iHealth has a significant amount of scientific data it can use to more accurately target consumers and doctors. The company employs digital marketing to accommodate the growing number of people wishing to access the research around its products.

Technology and social media have made research much easier, which has led to more people researching products before purchasing, according to Shirley. He said iHealth consumers often visit Amazon to conduct research before going into the actual store, which allows companies to deploy digital strategies to target customers.
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Jan 2, 2017
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