More than ever before, the concept of well-being refers to a state of overall harmony as well as a real philosophy of life, or lifestyle. It can be traced back not only to traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, but also to ancient Greek and Roman medical practice. Once reserved for an elite, this quest for well-being has now become an almost inescapable preoccupation of modern society. Achieved through good physical and mental health, it involves many aspects of daily life, starting with diet… “We are seeing extremely strong trends among consumers seeking well-being through food,” confirms Julie Lemahieu, head of wellness and immunity at Gnosis (the Lesaffre business unit specialising in human nutrition and health). “In the dietary supplements market, for example, our solutions for wellness and immunity are growing at a rate of 6-8% per year, and those for cognitive health at 12%. On the nutritional yeast market, which is already well developed, we are even seeing an explosion, with growth of around 35%!”
Fermentation and nutrition, the winning combination for human well-being
Popularised by everyday products such as bread, yoghurt, cheese and wine, fermentation is a central element in the quest for well-being through food. This traditional method of food preservation enables the enrichment of the nutrients in food and the strengthening of the immune system, through the action of bacteria. As a forerunner in fermentation research for over a century, Lesaffre has made it a core part of its nutritional solutions for well-being. “The principle is to seek out the numerous benefits of fermentation for human health, throughout the body,” summarises Julie Lemahieu. As such, nutritional yeast is an amazing ingredient – a “super food”. In addition to its taste, which is very popular with consumers, it is nutritionally excellent, providing a source of protein, fibre, minerals and vitamins, without any fat or sugar. Like yeast probiotics, which are well known for their digestive health benefits, nutritional yeast also supports immunity.”
Biotransformation produces vitamin K2, which keeps bones healthy, chondroitin, which protects joints, and probiotics such as Bacillus subtilis, which increases levels of immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against pathogens penetrating the intestinal barrier, explains Julie Lemahieu. “All these solutions derived from living organisms help prevent the disorders that can affect us, in particular those linked to ageing and external aggressors. The aim is to feel good today and to prepare our bodies for tomorrow.”
Animal, plant and environmental well-being are inseparable from human well-being
Although it has been practised for over 10,000 years, fermentation offers an “endless field of exploration” for human, animal, plant and environmental well-being, enthuses Julie Lemahieu.
To help provide people with healthy food, Lesaffre has developed fermentation-based products and solutions for breeders and farmers. The aim is to protect the health of the animals and the soil, whilst minimising their environmental footprint. Here too, fermentation offers an answer to current concerns. “Consumers often link well-being with sustainable development,” confirms Julie Lemahieu. “With this in mind, they are increasingly drawn to the idea of authenticity and strive to find foods that provide the nutrients necessary for their well-being, naturally. This explains the success of yeast, which is “ultra-sustainable”, as it is non-animal in origin and cultivated without soil.” And therefore a guarantee of well-being for both living organisms and the planet.
Is fermentation also effective against depression?
Fermentation is not only good for the body, it also has positive effects on cognitive health. Some bioactives derived from fermentation can have an influence on mental health, such as SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-methionine). “SAMe helps improve mood and prevent fatigue, particularly at certain times of the year and certain times of life,” explains Julie Lemahieu.
Current research appears to support the links between microbiota imbalances (dysbiosis) and mental health issues. In 2020, a team of researchers from the Institut Pasteur, Inserm (French research organisation dedicated to human health) and the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) even demonstrated the role of the intestinal microbiota in depression. By administering a postbiotic containing the precursor for serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with food regulation and positive mood) to mice, they discovered that it was possible to restore the effectiveness of certain antidepressants, such as fluoxetine, in the 30% of patients who did not respond to conventional treatment. In a second study, the same team also proved that the administration of a probiotic (Lactobacillus planterum) supported a recovery of the neurogenesis of the hippocampus, which plays an essential part in the learning and memorization process. These advances should revolutionise the treatment of the 264 million people around the world who suffer from depression…