Gut Health: The Next Mega-Trend in Health and Wellness

From “low-carb” to “smart carb”, through “high- protein” and “plant-based protein”, to “allergen-free” lifestyles: US consumers have been utilizing different strategies, in an attempt to manage their health through a more calculated consumption of food and beverage.

Today, the emergence of scientific evidence on the role of the human microbiome, and the importance of a healthy gut, meets a consumer who is thirsty for weight management and a bloat-free life. As a result, gut health is fast becoming a new lifestyle approach that will affect food and beverages, vitamins and supplements, and beauty.

 

According to most recent data by the World Health Organization, in 2014 more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Overall, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight and 13% of the world population were obese. (11% of men and 15% of women). 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese.

If rates of obesity continue to rise, it is estimated that by 2025 18% of men and 21% of women worldwide will be obese (Source: WHO 2016, The Lancet Journal 2016) . In 2016 in the US, 174.11 million people say that they “watch their diet”, compared to 147.82 million who said they don’t (Statista, based on the U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS)).

When asked why they are watching their diets (multiple answers allowed), 81% of consumers who are watching their diets said they were trying to lose weight (55% of consumers) or maintain weight (a further 26%).

Allergy and sensitivity, including gluten and lactose intolerance, were also cited by millions of Americans. According to a survey performed by Digestive Health in July 2016, 83% of consumers in the agreed they had experienced a digestive health ailment. Pew Research Center found that 32% of US adults say they have mild, moderate or severe allergies (15%) or intolerances (17%) to one or more foods.

In addition to gluten free, which boomed in the past 5 years, and lactose/dairy free, glucose free is starting to gain interest due to the rising interest in FODMAP (an acronym that stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). Some people experience gastro-intestinal symptoms (similar to IBS) after consuming FODMAPs.

Similarly, a Google Trends analysis from June 2017 demonstrates that “gut health” and “bloating” are among the most growing search terms when it comes to managing health through food (US, last 5 years). Search terms that indicate consumers’ rising awareness to gut health, such as “leaky gut”, are growing too.

Indeed, consumers, suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms, are turning to allergen-free diets in an attempt to decrease digestion discomfort, even if they were not diagnosed by a professional as intolerant or allergic.

This demonstrates that (1) nutrition is widely accepted as a powerful tool for management of lifestyle symptoms and that (2) gastric discomfort is a rather common problem.

At the same time, scientists are uncovering the significant role that the microbiome plays in human health, finding that our bacteria (or lack thereof) can be linked to or associated with: obesity, malnutrition, heart disease, diabetes, celiac disease, eczema, asthma, multiple sclerosis, colitis, some cancers, and even autism (source: The American Microbiome Institute, Inc.). The human microbiome refers to the assemblage of microbes that live in the human body. While these microbes inhabit all parts of our body that are exposed to the environment, most reside in the gut where they have a constant supply of nutrients.

The intersection between weight loss and digestion, combined with the latest discoveries in microbiome research and personal nutrition, is therefore the next big trend to happen in F&B health and wellness.

According to a study by Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, published in the Cell journal in December 2016, when gut microbiota are healthy, they maintain regular daily cycles of activities such as congregating in different parts of the intestine and producing molecules that help the body function properly. A disruption of the gut’s rhythms upsets many of the body’s other circadian clocks, especially in the liver, one of the main metabolic organs, and can lead to a number of diseases.

Gut health in general, and the gut-mind connection in particular, are gaining huge interest with books, magazines and TV shows discussing the subject. As scientists discover more about the role of gut microbiome in weight management and general health, start-ups are beginning to utilize those discoveries and offer tools for self monitoring and diet decision making. These start-ups are attracting a lot of attention from investors, as well.

We believe that gut health will become a number 1 priority for health-conscious consumers, and diet plans that promise to re-build healthy microbiota, as well as products that help replenish friendly bacteria, will flourish.

Popular books on gut health differ greatly in terms of eating recommendations. Some encourage a vegan-oriented diet, while others look at a Paleo-style diets, as a gut health strategy. It seems, however, that gluten and fluid milk might continue to suffer from a negative image.

New opportunities arise in dairy, legumes, raw, and fermented foods:

Fermented – kefir, kombucha, pickles and kimchi – as well as cuisines that encourage the consumption of these components (e.g., Korean restaurants) – will rise.

Probiotics – after years of decline in the perception of probiotics, supplements and products rich in pro- and pre-biotic fiber will be on trend again. In addition to yogurt and dairy-free fermented products, ingredients such as artichokes and beans will benefit from the trend.

Fiber will be the next nutrient in focus, after protein. Since gluten-free is recommended by many gut-health popular books, we believe that legumes can benefit from this trend, as can chia and flax seeds.

This report, a section from our Health and Wellness project, includes examples for brands and supplements that respond to these trends. Please download here.


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