Consumer health, nutrition and overall wellness have continued to remain in the spotlight over the last few years. With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for products that promote healthy living and aid wellness have increased substantially.
In a recent McKinsey report that surveyed approximately 7,500 consumers in six countries, 79% considered wellness as an important factor in everyday life, while 42% considered it a top priortity . In conjunction, there has also been a shift in spending from consumers that worked from home – and continue to do so – during the pandemic, versus those that are required to work away from home. Up to 32% of worldwide consumers working from home are now spending more on health and beauty compared to just 22% of those that aren’t, according to a recent PwC Pulse survey .
There has also been increased interest from consumers in relation to dietary supplements. In fact, Google Trends data from over the last five years reported a 100% uplift in UK consumers searching for dietary supplements in December 2019 , just weeks before the news of the pandemic surfaced. This correlates with the latest research from the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association that reports over 70% of UK adults are now taking a food supplement, with one in three having introduced them because of the pandemic . McKinsey worldwide consumer data also backs this, with 41% saying that they would choose a more natural dietary supplement rather than a more effective one . Yet what if supplements could be both natural and effective?
The science behind marine peptides
The biosciences industry has been developing health supplements from functional marine raw materials for many years. In the past, much of those food-grade raw materials were used in animal feed or pet supplements. However, in the last 15 years bioscientists have been exploring the use of marine peptides for human health.
For instance, seaweed has been used as a major source of protein in the creation of ‘bioactive’ peptides, where previous studies report that it can help promote health by killing harmful bacteria, lowering hypertension, assisting the immune system and preventing thrombosis . Due to their excellent versatility, seaweed has historically been used as a starting point for many bioactive peptides, depending on their composition and their amino acids sequence . The issue with seaweed-derived peptides, however, is their presence of polysaccharides in the cell walls, hindering accessibility and making extraction much more challenging.
Seaweed is not the only source of marine life that’s been used to great effect in peptides. A growing number of studies suggest that marinederived waste by-products, molluscs, crustaceans, and protein hydrolysates (extracted from cod, pollack, tuna, seabream and more) may promote human health by potentially preventing chronic disease, including cardiovascular diseases and obesity . In marine processing waste, which cannot be used in its current form for human consumption, approximately 40%  of total fish protein can be found in trimmings, offcuts and viscera. To ensure the raw materials are not wasted, biorefineries repurpose these ingredients by using extraction methods, such as enzymatic hydrolysis.
Enzymatic hydrolysis is favoured by many nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies due to its avoidance of using harsh chemicals and physical treatments. This process uses enzymes to breakdown compounds through the addition of water. It’s a natural method that follows the human digestion system, whereby macromolecules are split from food, and can be used with a variety of food-grade materials to develop products fit for human consumption, such as fructose syrup, oligosaccharides, hydrolysate and peptides. By utilising enzymatic hydrolysis as a gentle separation process, the functional properties and nutritional values can be preserved.
When marine peptides are created in this way, it can work wonders on human health. For instance, a 2013 study used the antimicrobial properties found on fish gills to eliminate the bacterial pathogen E. coli, to potentially use on foodborne illnesses , while researchers from the US identified that a protein derived from Pacific cod could inhibit prostate cancer and other cancers from spreading . In addition, rat studies have been performed with protein hydrolysates and peptides derived from marine waste that have shown a reduction in systolic blood pressure , while a peptide that was first isolated from teleost fish has been proven to modulate many biologic activities encompassing the cardiovascular system, kidneys and central nervous system .
There is now growing evidence that other forms of marine waste can be used in the fight against chronic disease. Operating as a leading biosciences company, Biomega believes that highly sustainable bioactive salmon peptides could be the key to minimising risk factors associated with human obesity. The latest research unveiled by the Norwegian-based company suggests that bioactive salmon peptides could help reduce inflammation in adipose tissue, while significantly decreasing body mass index.
“Today, we understand that salmon hydrolysed proteins may prevent obesity by modulating the bile acid metabolism and, if taken in supplemental doses, it could be a useful tool in the long-term management of weight,” commented Bjørn Liaset, Chief Scientific Officer at Biomega. “By using this knowledge, we can determine bioactive salmon peptides could be a key element in the prevention of obesity. As such, we are actively working on a go-to-market solution to help this cause.”
Pointing to research in its whitepaper, the company refers to pre-clinical studies involving rats, whereby the plasma BA concentration was elevated by exchanging the dietary protein source from milk casein to salmon protein hydrolysate (SPH). As such, the SPH-treated rats were resistant to diet-induced obesity .
“While in its infancy, a number of studies already indicate that salmon peptides could have a positive contribution on weight management,” continued Liaset. “By using our unique patented and continuous enzymatic hydrolysis process to gently transform fresh salmon parts into high value, food grade, hydrolysed salmon proteins and oils for the health and nutrition sector, it could mark the beginning of peptides as a novel therapeutic for weight management. As such, this presents a crucial solution to the obesity epidemic and overall human health.”
Natural is the way forward
With today’s consumers viewing wellness across six key areas, including health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness, scientifically supported and natural food peptides may be more beneficial to human health than first suspected. Evolutions in technology are now refining the exact science it takes to create dietary supplements that work with our bodies – not against. Perhaps companies that follow a natural process akin to our own digestive system hold the key to unlocking better health. After all, socially responsible consumers now widely prefer brands that develop products which are both environmentally sustainable and use natural ingredients – as Biomega can attest. Pure and simple dietary supplements may just be the way forward.