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Fi Europe 2023

Connecting the dots between microbiota and the gut-brain axis [Interview]

Article-Connecting the dots between microbiota and the gut-brain axis [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights Fi Europe 2023 Interview with Dr Miguel Toribio-Mateas
A healthy gut microbiome is key in ensuring good holistic health, says gut-brain-axis expert and independent consultant at MiguelMateas Consulting Dr. Miguel Toribio-Mateas. At the Fi Europe Conference, Dr. Toribio-Mateas will lift the lid on his his latest discoveries in this area.

In this interview, Dr. Toribio-Mateas explains more about his research findings into specific strains of probiotics and prebiotics and the positive impact they can have on the health and function of both the gut and the brain. He also expands on the sort of finished product that these advances are best suited to, as well as highlighting benefits such as mood regulation, improved sleep, and improved gut function.

What are your primary findings regarding microbiota and the positive impact this can have on both the gut and the brain?

“Our primary findings indicate that the microbiota plays a substantial role in modulating both gut and brain health through what is known as the gut-brain axis. A balanced and diverse gut microbiota is associated with better mental health outcomes, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“Short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, produced by gut bacteria during the fermentation of fibre, are particularly interesting. They not only nourish the gut lining but also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that can influence neurotransmitter production and neural plasticity, thereby affecting mental well-being.”

What are the specific novel ingredients that are being developed to enhance both gut health and brain function?

“In terms of novel ingredients, there is exciting research around specific probiotic strains and prebiotic fibres that can have dual benefits for the gut and brain. For example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains have shown promise in improving mood and cognitive function. Also, various types of prebiotic fibres, such as galactooligosaccharides (GOS), aim to selectively feed beneficial gut bacteria, thereby enhancing gut health and, by extension, brain function.”

What kind of products do these novel ingredients appear in, and how can they be made to appeal to consumers?

“These novel ingredients are often incorporated into functional foods and beverages, dietary supplements, and even specialised medical foods. To appeal to consumers, these products are formulated to be both tasty and convenient. They can be found in forms like capsules, chewable tablets, or powdered supplements that can be mixed into drinks. Also, some companies are innovating with fermented foods and beverages enriched with these beneficial microbes, creating options like fortified yoghurts, kefirs, and even non-dairy alternatives.”

While the association with microbiota and gut health is well documented, can you go into a bit more detail about the benefits to the brain? What type of individual is most likely to benefit and how?

“When it comes to benefits to the brain, the gut-brain axis is thought to affect various aspects of neurological health, from mood regulation to cognitive function. A balanced gut microbiome appears to have anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce neuroinflammation, a contributing factor to many neuropsychiatric conditions. In terms of who is most likely to benefit, individuals with gastrointestinal issues, chronic stress, those who don’t sleep well and/or long enough, and people living with anxiety or depression may see more pronounced benefits from modulating their gut microbiome as a complementary approach to traditional therapies.”

What is the primary message you want to get out there at the Fi Europe Conference with respect to the microbiota-gut-brain axis?

“The modulation of the gut microbiota by means of a combination of dietary and supplementary approaches holds the distinction as one of the most potent health tools at humanity’s disposal. As R&D professionals at the forefront of functional nutrition, you have the unparalleled opportunity to pioneer solutions that go beyond mere symptom management and aim for holistic well-being. By embracing the interconnectedness of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, we can develop innovative products that redefine functional nutrition, optimising mental performance and elevating the human experience. Together, we can turn the science of today into the health revolutions of tomorrow.”