Stress-Reducing Supplements Tailored for Women’s Health

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Stress is a major factor that impacts many chronic health issues. From meeting a tight deadline to navigating the holiday season, modern life can be stressful. Women in particular may feel the brunt – they’re more likely to develop physical and emotional symptoms of burnout than men, according to the American Psychological Association.[i]

And with the women’s supplement market on the rise — the global market is projected to reach $68.9 billion by 2026[ii] — savvy brand owners can consider developing supplements tailored specifically to women’s brain health. By tapping into emerging research, which reveals that specific strains can significantly reduce women’s stress via the microbiota-gut-brain axis[iii], they can craft holistic solutions that help women keep stress at bay.

The Pathway to Calm

Stress impacts the entire body by way of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, a bi-directional communication pathway which transmits signals between the gut, microbes that live there and the central nervous system. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can affect intestinal barrier integrity and immune signaling within the gut, as well as change the composition of gut microbiota.[iv] Signaling along the microbiota-gut-brain axis can influence brain function, and even behavior.

Orally ingested probiotics can reach the gut and impact how the body physically and mentally responds to stress via the microbiota-gut-brain axis’ communication pathway. Researchers continue to dive deeper into investigating these ‘psychobiotics’, which can support brain health and help manage stress.

In fact, the researchers behind HOWARU® probiotics conducted a pre-clinical trial exploring 12 probiotic strains, to investigate whether they could reduce stress-related behaviors in anxiety-prone mice.[v] They found that the strain Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Lpc-37® significantly reduced anxious and depressive behaviors in mice – which were exposed to chronic stress for three weeks, during five-week single probiotic strain interventions.

Clinical Findings for Females

Lpc-37®’s efficacy and brain health benefits became even clearer following a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Researchers split 120 healthy adults into two groups, with one taking a capsule of 17 Billion CFU of Lpc-37® and the other a placebo daily for five weeks.[vi] Participants’ mood, stress and anxiety were evaluated at baseline to end-of-study – as well as their sleep quality and overall well-being. After the five-week period, participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), which is widely considered the gold standard of laboratory stress tests for humans.

According to the Perceived Stress Scale, the group taking Lpc-37® exhibited a notable decrease in perceived stress, compared to the placebo group, from baseline to end-of-study (p=0.048). While these results show great promise for the general population, the benefits were even more significant for female participants. Compared to their male counterparts, covariate analyses indicated that the women participating had higher stress levels, more sleep disruptions and less sleep recovery – even though the study’s randomization was stratified for sex and perceived stress levels.

Women who consumed Lpc-37® also demonstrated a larger decrease in perceived stress, compared to those in the placebo group. Furthermore, women in the probiotic group had a much lower systolic blood pressure in response to an acute stress test (TSST), compared to the placebo (p=0.031). For brand owners looking deliver women’s brain health products that help reduce stress, Lpc-37® might be a noteworthy ingredient.

Cognitive Combinations

While crafting brain health supplements tailored to women, brand owners should also consider weaving in botanicals or natural ingredients, since supplements containing probiotics and botanicals are outpacing traditional probiotic products.[vii] For example, brand owners can consider pairing Lpc-37® with phosphatidylserine (PS) to reduce stress, and promote a balanced mood and sharpened focus. The combination of Lpc-37®, the strain found in HOWARU® Calm, and IFF Health’s Sharp-PS® has been rigorously tested for stability to ensure the highest quality and substantiated efficacy.

Formulators can also turn to natural relaxants – such as valerian root, chamomile, elderberry and passion flower – to develop a product that promotes a restful night’s sleep. For example, chamomile – or Chamomilla recutita – contains apigenin, which binds to receptors in the brain to initiate a peaceful slumber. Additionally, passion flower – or Passiflora incarnata L. – naturally boosts gamma-aminobutyric acid levels and lowers brain activity, for increased sleep support.

Brand owners can also consider incorporating ingredients that address additional women’s health needs, for a holistic supplement solution. For example, by adding HOWARU® Protect Prenatal+ and POWDERPURE™ Cranberry to their supplements, formulators can also deliver immune health support. And by adding HOWARU® Shape and FenuLife® – a soluble dietary fiber – brand owners can provide a natural solution to bolster weight management.

Stress-Fighting Solution

As research around the gut’s impact on the brain continues to develop, so does consumer demand for stress-reducing supplements. By leveraging specific probiotic strains, and synergistic natural ingredients, brand owners can develop brain health supplements, tailored to women’s specific health needs, that stand out from competitors.  

Johanna Maukonen, Global Health and Nutrition Science Lead, IFF Health

Johanna has led the Global Health and Nutrition Science group since 2017. The Global Health and Nutrition science group has about 45 scientists and technicians and conducts and coordinates in vitro, pre-clinical and clinical health efficacy studies in relation to IFF’s ingredients, mainly in relation to probiotic research. Before joining IFF Health / DuPont, Johanna spent more than twenty years at the VTT Technical Research Centre, the Nordic’s leading research and technology company. She has extensive research and development experience in understanding the gut microbiota and its impact on health, with a special emphasis on the influence of probiotics, nutrition and fibers. She has a master’s degree in technology with major in applied microbiology from the Helsinki University of Technology and a doctorate in science in technology from Aalto University on the characterization of predominant human fecal microbiota.

[i] Gender And Stress. American Psychological Association, 2021, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2010/gender-stress#:~:text=Women%20are%20more%20likely%20to%20report%20physical%20and%20emotional%20symptoms,percent)%20in%20the%20past%20month

[ii] Women Health & Beauty Supplements Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report, May 2020

[iii] Cryan, John F et al. “The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis.” Physiological reviews vol. 99,4 (2019): 1877-2013. doi:10.1152/physrev.00018.2018

[iv] Foster, J. A., Rinaman, L., & Cryan, J. F. (2017, March 19). Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiology of stress. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5736941/

[v] Stenman, Lotta K et al. “Strain specific stress-modulating effects of candidate probiotics: A systematic screening in a mouse model of chronic restraint stress.” Behavioural Brain Research vol. 379 (2020): 112376. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112376

[vi] Patterson, Elaine et al. “Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Lpc-37® improves psychological and physiological markers of stress and anxiety in healthy adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled and parallel clinical trial” (the Sisu study), Neurobiology of stress vol. 13 (2020): 100277, ISSN 2352-2895

[vii] Nutrition Business Journal, April 2021

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