Trend Watch: Educating Shoppers on Postbiotics
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Gut health has received a lot of attention over the past several years as new research connects the microbiome to immune support and overall health. Recently there has been a new addition to the dialog around gut health: Postbiotics. This article reviews what postbiotics are, potential health benefits and ways to promote them to customers.
Understanding postbiotics – When prebiotics (aka fiber), are consumed they are fermented by gastrointestinal bacteria. The end products of this fermentation process are bioactive postbiotics. In 2021 the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ASAPP) formally defined a postbiotic as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host”. Examples of postbiotics include familiar nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin K, folate and some amino acids that can be made by gut bacteria. Others varieties are short-chain fatty acids, enzymes, lipopolysaccharides, bacterial lysates, and cell-free supernatants.
Potential health benefits – Studies on the benefits of postbiotics are limited and research is trying to understand the connection between postbiotic generation and the resulting health effects. Most current research involves supplementation vs the consumption of pre- and probiotic foods. Particular areas that are showing promise include immune function and relief from gastrointestinal concerns. Some studies have shown postbiotic supplementation may reduce development of respiratory tract infections along with alleviating symptoms of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.
Promoting postbiotics to shoppers – As you discuss gut health within your educational programming you should include information on postbiotics as consumers will likely begin to hear about them.
- Help shoppers understand that an increase in the consumption of prebiotic and probiotic foods may result in more postbiotic generation in the gut. Highlight familiar probiotic foods along with common high fiber foods, but go beyond this to help shoppers discover food ingredients like lactulose and inulin which are also classified as prebiotics.
- When discussing a plant-forward eating pattern include the potential benefit how more natural plant foods like beans, fruits, veggies and whole grains, and the fiber they provide, can help produce more postbiotics in the gut.
- Create a video or class on fermented foods which may also boost probiotic production. Consumers may not be familiar with foods like kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha so develop content discussing the benefits of including these foods in the diet along with easy, tasty ways to use them.
- Learn what may be available in your pharmacies so you are equipped to answer shopper questions on supplements for gut health. In dietary supplement form, postbiotics could be marketed under names like “sodium butyrate” or “fermentate” and they are often combined with pre- or probiotics into a single supplement.