New potato-derived health product hits store shelves

Two Carberry brothers are hopeful results from newly published clinical trials will spur growth of their company MSPrebiotics Inc.

A Carberry business that successfully launched a natural health product for the hog sector has now released a second-generation product aimed at the human market.

It’s a product clinical trials show can significantly improve the digestive health of humans, particularly seniors.

Earl and Derek McLaren, the Carberry-based brothers who own the company, recently saw their new potato-derived digestion-resistant starch supplement hit the shelves in Manitoba at Vita Health Fresh Market outlets.

As well about 50 health food stores in Toronto already stock the product. They anticipate soon making sales to the U.S. and other international markets, said company vice-president Derek McLaren.

“It’s quite exciting for us. We’ve been on this journey to a human product for quite some years.”

The two men, in business and farming together on their Carberry potato operation for over 40 years, have paid close attention to health issues especially those related to gut health.

That focus first resulted in the release more than a decade ago of a similar natural health product for preventing digestive disorders in weanling pigs. It proved very effective and there was substantial uptake in the hog sector by producers looking for alternatives to antibiotics.

That then led to more research and eventually clinical trials to test the product on humans too, ‘Because swine gut biology is very similar to humans,’ said Derek McLaren.

Now the brothers are eyeing a much wider market for their commercialized human health product.

Results from clinical trials show MSPrebiotic significantly reduces bad bacteria and increases good gut bacteria in human subjects, improving digestion and overall gut health in two age groups studied, including participants 70 years old and older and another ages 30 to 50. The research was conducted at the St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre and done by medical microbiologist and Centre for Canadian Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARHM) principal investigator Dr. Michelle Alfa.

The results have just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Nutrition.

The 12-week study, comparing the product’s potato-derived digestion-resistant starch versus a digestible cornstarch placebo, also showed a significant reduction in glucose and insulin resistance in older adults consuming it, findings which indicate that this could be a valuable way to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Elderly participants in the trial also experienced less constipation because of the product’s high fibre content.

MSPrebiotic is consumed as a powder mixed with liquid such as water or a smoothie.

Prebiotic is the food that probiotics, or healthy bacteria feed on, explains McLaren.

Most types of starch are digested and broken down by the body, providing a source of glucose, but as a digestion-resistant starch, this becomes food for the healthy bacteria (probiotics) living in the colon instead.

McLaren said they are very excited about the prospects for their new natural health product.

“We’ve been working on this for years and, as everyone hears, there’s lots of gut health issues nowadays,” he said.

“Our product can really help with these areas as a natural health product.”

The company’s success also bodes well for rural economic development and growth in the Carberry region.

The McLarens have already invested over $2 million into a local manufacturing plant and offices at Carberry and now employ a staff of 15. A major expansion with 10 new offices is now nearing completion. They expect to grow the staff to 50 as sales rise, Derek McLaren said.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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