Probiotics Hold Promise for Health, Food Market

There are 13 national standards defined in producing probiotic products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a probiotic culture collection set up at the Iranian Biological Research Center
Probiotics  Hold Promise  for Health, Food MarketProbiotics  Hold Promise  for Health, Food Market

People usually think of bacteria as causing diseases, but the body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. 

The good bacteria are often called probiotics (literally ‘for living’) because they are believed to provide health benefits when consumed. They are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for health, especially the digestive system, and doctors often recommend them for gut-related problems. 

Although they are naturally found in the body, they can also be spotted in some foods and supplements.

It’s only since the mid-1990s that people began to show more interest in probiotics and their health benefits. 

“Microorganisms are the invisible health providers,” Maryam Tajabadi, founder and director of Iranian Society of Probiotics and Functional Foods (ISPFF), told the Persian-language weekly Tejarat-e-Farda, a sister publication of the Financial Tribune.

“Out of the millions of bacteria in the world, only 200 cause diseases,” she noted. “This is while industrial food is one the most important causes of non-communicable diseases.”

Over 25 important diseases and syndromes occur due to bacterial imbalance in the body including Alzheimer’s, depression and rheumatic diseases. 

When the body loses good bacteria, such as after taking antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them. They can help balance the good and bad bacteria to keep the body healthy. Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics.

The society in Iran was founded in 2010 under the Ministry of Science and Technology in order to promote and develop the field at the academic level as well as qualitative development of specialists and education and research in microbiology and biological sciences.

“Applied microbiology is one of the most proficient majors globally,” said Tajabadi, who is also founder and head of Tak Gene Bio Company, the only producer of probiotics for humans and animals in Iran.

Thanks to her efforts, there are now 13 national standards defined in producing probiotic products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a probiotic culture collection set up at the Iranian Biological Research Center.

  Health Benefits

There are numerous benefits of using commercial probiotics, such as reduction of gastrointestinal discomfort or strengthening of the immune system, Tajabadi said.

Probiotics have beneficial effects on humans as well as animals. They help in treating various gut-related as well as immunity related diseases. They are gaining widespread popularity owing to the increase in awareness of the relationships between nutrition, diet and health. 

One systematic review of 15 human randomized controlled trials from July 2016 found that certain commercially available strains of probiotic bacteria when taken by mouth in daily doses of 109–1010 colony forming units for 1–2 months, possess treatment efficacy in certain psychological disorders, e.g. anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder – and improves certain aspects of memory.

Tajabadi stressed that reaching self sufficiency is important for the quality and price of probiotic products, “since live microbe imports could undergo changes that affect quality during a long transport haul.” 

Additionally, bacteria differ in the products of each region as well as in people from different parts of the world. 

“The probiotics industry is an intelligent industry that will only grow in time,” she noted.

“Iranians are not familiar with probiotic products yet, which will take time.” One instance of a highly popular probiotic product in the country is Javaneh Biscuits produced by the giant conglomerate Minoo Company.

Over 90% of the people don’t have adequate information about the beneficial properties of probiotic foods and supplements as per studies conducted by the FDA. 

The exact strains of microorganisms used in probiotic products is required to be written on the product labels, as there are many different types of probiotics and all have different properties, according to Behrouz Jannat, director general of the Food and Drugs Research Laboratory at the FDA.

Thirty licenses for the production of pharmaceutical probiotic supplements have been issued by the FDA, Hussein Rastegar, head of the FDA’s Food and Drug Control Laboratories, had said last February. 

  Favorable Demand 

The global probiotics market is expected to reach $66.04 billion by 2024, according to international reports.

The growing preference for functional foods to curb health disorders is expected to favor the overall market growth over the period. Increasing probiotics market penetration in dairy and other food and beverages industry is expected to favor the overall demand.

Diversity of probiotic products is also increasing in the market in Iran which ranks first in the region in producing probiotics, said Tajabadi.

Over ten types of probiotic foods are available in the Iranian market under over 25 standard logos, the majority of which include yoghurts. There are less than 10 laboratories certified for the products.

“It’s only three years since we introduced probiotic foods,” Tajabadi said. “We will be looking to expand our market overseas after it is fully established domestically.”

Major market players are focusing on R&D to gain traction as far as innovation in product portfolio is concerned. Companies are approaching probiotics production through a holistic approach to provide unique product differentiation and boost customer loyalty.

“We allocate about 12-15% of our resources for R&D because this field of science and business must be constantly upgraded.”

The company has signed contracts in research projects with three local research institutes.

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