Published On: March 3, 2023

Upgrading the production of nutraceuticals

Healthy products for humans without burdening the environment

Exercise, drink plenty of water, don’t smoke, eat a balanced diet…There are many things we can do to keep healthy. And we constantly have new options available because there are many companies developing products related to wellbeing.

Thanks to one of these industries, we can now also complement our diet with vitamins, probiotics or food supplements that help prevent diseases and make us feel more energetic – the nutraceutical industry. But what exactly are nutraceuticals?

The word “nutraceutical” is a portmanteau of “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical“, referring to a food or part of a food that provides health benefits, including the prevention and/or treatment of diseases. This industry, in addition to seeking to improve human well-being, currently also strives to combine sustainability with production efficiency.

From the laboratory to your vitamin jar

As we have discussed in previous posts of this blog, the manufacturing processes of many sectors, such as the cosmetics and laundry industries, are often harmful to the environment. This is because non-biological components are used, and processes use energy very inefficiently.

Unfortunately, nutraceuticals are not an exception, and their development leaves a lot of room for improvement in terms of sustainability. This industry‘s ecological footprint could be reduced in many instances: from the reception of the raw material and extraction and purification of active principles, all the way to product formulation and packaging.

What options are there for improving the situation? In RADICALZ we of course trust in the potential of enzymes! These powerful biomolecules can have a huge impact in changing production processes, enabling chemical reactions with fewer resources and generating less waste.

Our scientists apply the knowledge from their research into these powerhouses to improve the development of nutraceuticals, with the final aim of taking their research from the lab to real-life settings.

The perfect match: tailoring enzymes for each product

In RADICALZ we seek to improve the production of nutraceuticals through the biosynthesis of compounds widely used in this industry, as prebiotics.

Prebiotics are molecules that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms in our digestive system, thus improving the composition of our gut microbiome. In the nutraceutical industry, synthesis of new prebiotic structures is in high demand, due to each person’s unique microbiota – meaning that the same probiotics won’t necessarily work for everyone. In RADICALZ we develop enzymes and biocatalytic processes to create new prebiotic structures more ecologically.

Some prebiotics have become valuable additives which are introduced in foods like dairy to promote good intestinal and colon microbial communities. To improve this process, we evaluate and design enzymes capable of synthesising these kinds of prebiotics directly in dairy products (in-situ), in a much more sustainable way. Furthermore, we work on membrane-bound enzymes for a more sustainable enzymatic ex-situ production of prebiotics.

Various industries, one common goal

Although we are aware of the complexity of our aim to reduce the environmental burden that many important industries are having on our planet, we also trust that we hold the keys to achieving it. This is due to enzymes: powerful biomolecules that will bring the ecological revolution.

Because as Greta Thunberg said, “You are never too small to make a difference.”

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