Shawn Garvey, PhD, the company’s relatively R&D director, said part of his interview process at the legacy enzyme and probiotic manufacturer was to ask the question, “Do enzymes work?”
Dawn of a new R&D day
He said he asked the pointed question because in his view there was a dearth of peer reviewed, published literature about the health effects of digestive enzymes. The company, which is based in Charlottesville, VA, had plenty of data, but much of that was bound up in projects that had been done at the behest of formulation customers. When it came to information available to end users, those consumers were left to sort through marketing statements made by finished goods manufacturers.
“In the past we had typically done projects for our customers. We are trying to take a step forward as our own R&D organization,” Garvey told NutraIngredients-USA.
Garvey, who holds a PhD in genetics and genomics from Duke University, said one of his first goals was to find a firm research footing for the actions of the company’s more than 40 digestive enzymes. Studies of human nutrition using actual people as subjects are notoriously difficult with big placebo effects and difficulty controlling dietary intake as some of the main confounders.
Finding the right model
Garvey said the company took the tack of finding a digestion model to use to get baseline data on the function of a particular blend the company postulated could benefit aging consumers. It’s no secret that many people complain of digestive issues as they age, which can have to do with declining production of endogenous digestive enzymes.
“When I became director of R&D a bit more than a year ago we landscaped all of the in vitro digestion modeling tools available and very quickly identified INFOGEST as the one to use,” Garvey said.
The model is the work of an international consortium of digestion researchers. First postulated in 2014 and tweaked in 2019, the system of sequential bench top tests models human digestion closely and yields validated results. And, perhaps equally importantly, it was designed to be easy to use so that researchers like those at BIoCat wouldn’t face a dauntingly steep (and expensive) learning curve in employing it.
The new pre clinical research, conducted and written by a team led by Garvey and published in the peer reviewed journal Food Chemistry, employed a modified INFOGEST system that mimicked the compromised aging gut in one case and a digestion situation that has been altered by the use of an acid reducing medication (proton pump inhibitor, or PPI).
Detailed picture of blend’s performance
The researchers tested the effect of a six enzyme blend under those conditions and saw how it affected the digestion of a serving of the oral nutritional supplement Ensure, a cooked test meal and a heated canned meal alternative. The study yielded highly specific and complex data on the effect of the enzyme blend on nutrient release.
“Altogether these data show that the INFOGEST static simulation of GI digestion is a tractable tool for investigating the effects of exogenous enzyme activity on food and macronutrient digestion. We detail methods adapted to the study of exogenous enzymes, as well as comprehensive details on the preparation of both simple and complex chicken-based test meals to complement reductionist studies of individual molecules and macronutrients,” The researchers concluded.
Garvey said he was heartened that the test yielded such granular data. It’s a model the company will use going forward to validate additional blends for specific purposes. It will also give the company confidence that it is using the best fit for purpose blends when conducting clincal trials in humans. One such human clincal trial is underway with the six-enzyme blend, Garvey said.
“We have a portfolio of more than 40 digestive enzymes. This model will allow us to very quickly invest in different blends and decide what the dosages of the individual enzymes in those blends should be,” Garvey said.
“I like to call it bringing new science to old enzymes,” he concluded.
Source: Food Chemistry
30 August 2022, 132777
Fungal digestive enzymes promote macronutrient hydrolysis in the INFOGEST static in vitro simulation of digestion
Authors: Garvey SM, et al.