Amorepacific launches Green Tea Probiotics Research Center
In a time when the global population is eager for information on ways to boost the immune system, “probiotics” is once again in the news. Marketing claims for yogurt and fermented foods, including kombucha, have made the word familiar to many consumers. The World Health Organization issued a report in 2001 defining probiotics as “live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
In February, the South Korean luxury cosmetics line Amorepacific announced its R&D Center was opening a Green Tea Probiotics Research Center. This new venture, according to business journal Nutrition Insight, will study a newly discovered lactobacillus in Korea’s Jeju Island-grown green tea. (Lactobacillus is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the human digestive system, where it is known to fight pathogens.) The same report states that Amorepacific plans to use the research to develop products in the “health, food and cosmetics” markets, and to “globally expand competitive microorganism research and its related technologies.”
A research paper released by Amorepacific, documenting the R&D Center’s collaboration with Professor Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Holzapfel, one of the world’s most renowned scholars in the field of gut microbiota, notes that the specific strain of lactobacillus “is adapted to diverse environments and provides a promising potential for various applications.” The paper goes on to say that the joint research “also confirmed that the probiotic strain from green tea leaves originally discovered by Amorepacific Group decreases the level of inflammation factors in the stomach.”
Amorepacific has successfully used and promoted the properties of green tea for decades. The company, which is based on the island of Jeju, was founded in 1945 and has always specialized in skincare products created with their own green tea. Founder Sung-Hwan-Suh researched the benefits of Korean botanicals and invested in agriculture on the island. The company manages a 1,000-acre organic green tea farm that exports to the United States, Germany and Asia. It began studying the benefits of green tea in the 1980s, and research produced a new variety of green tea with cosmetic (specifically skin) benefits in the 2000s. According to a release published on prnewswire.com, in 2010, the R&D Center discovered a “green tea probiotic strain, Lactobacillus plantarum (APsulloc),“which facilitates green tea fermentation, from richly flavored, fermented green tea leaves from green tea grown organically in Jeju Island.”
The release goes on to state that this particular strain “survives and persists” more successfully in the intestinal tract and “has excellent antibacterial, antibiotic resistant property according to genome analysis.”
Amorepacific’s R&D Center is one of many research facilities worldwide that have confirmed the multiple beneficial substances found in green tea. Matt Malek, director of research and development for 21st Century Research Laboratories, which formulates products for multiple beauty companies, noted that, because of the methods used to harvest and preserve green tea, preventing oxidation, “Green teas have a much higher concentration of chlorophyll, polyphenols and antioxidants than other tea types.” This includes, he explained, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG,which is naturally present in green tea, and is being studied for its many health benefits.
Yet another area of research already being conducted focuses on “prebiotics.” As early as 1995, one scientific research paper defined a prebiotic as “a nondigestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health.” A 2016 paper, “Prebiotics: Why Definitions Matter,” quotes that definition, notes that definition of the term continues to evolve, but goes on to state:
“The food industry is interested in prebiotics for their application and promise as functional ingredients in foods targeted toward health-conscious consumers. Benefits, ranging from maintaining and enhancing gut health, modulating the immune system, lowering glycemic response, and reducing insulin resistance are of interest to consumers and therefore attractive targets for new functional foods.”
The tea industry has a stake in this research as well. As quoted by nutraingredients.com in an October 2017 post, a European Journal of Nutrition report stated that the results of a study “suggest that both green and black tea are prebiotics, substances that induce the growth of good microorganisms that contribute to a person’s well-being.”
As well-being, along with a strong immune system, are being sought throughout the world, it stands to reason that tea growers, marketers and retailers will be paying marked attention to their products as a natural source of both probiotics and prebiotics.