PeptAIde—The World’s First Nutritional Ingredient Unlocked Through AI To Address Sports-Related Inflammation
Friday, March 13th, 2020
In January 2017, BASF and Nuritas discovered the world’s first bioactive ingredient through the use AI technology. To understand more about this pioneering data-driven approach to ingredient innovation, APFI interviews Dr Dietrich Rein, Global Scientific Marketing—Human Nutrition at BASF.
Why and how did BASF embark on this breakthrough project leading to the world’s first nutritional ingredient identified by Artificial Intelligence?
BASF recognised the global trend of an increasing number of consumers leading more active lifestyles and taking responsibility for their health through physical exercise.
In a consumer research conducted, active consumers indicated that they would consume a dietary supplement to support post-workout recovery caused by inflammation, which they often perceived as a feeling of discomfort, mild to moderate pain, and stiffness or soreness.
In the segment of sports nutrition supplements, we also identified a gap in the market that could meet the needs of active consumers. According to a Consensus Statement by the International Olympic Committee, the conclusion was that only a few ingredients in existing dietary supplements have good scientific evidence to support performance.
Thus, we embarked on a partnership with Nuritas, combining science and AI technology to identify an ingredient that could modulate inflammation related to muscle stress response.
Nuritas had already developed and trained algorithms using libraries worth of information on biological networks and active molecules to build highly-accurate predictors of biological activity. In this case, they used precise queries to identify specific peptides that affect the inflammatory process based on a rich existing data set from globally accessible scientific knowledge, that were then curated by human experts.
Why peptides, and what else is unique about BASF’s bioactive peptide beyond the AI-identification?
Peptides are short amino acid chains either derived from protein breakdown (hydrolysis), mainly an enzymatic process, or synthesised specifically for their biological function. In human nutrition, peptides serve three functionalities: as an easily accessible source of amino acids, as a hypoallergenic source of proteins, and as biologically active peptides. In general, peptides play an important role in human health by affecting digestive, endocrine, cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems. Scientific research on nutritional peptides have shown certain functionalities—namely collagen peptides to stimulate extracellular matrix synthesis, milk peptides to reduce blood pressure, or egg peptides to modulate immunity.
The use of AI in PeptAIde is a breakthrough as it enabled the identification of not one, but four unique bioactive peptides. Plus, it guided the search for the best food protein to yield the peptides from.
The other unique factor is PeptAIde is a natural, plant-based brown rice source with more than 75 percent protein content and thus addresses the demand for premium plant-based products. The mild partial protein hydrolysis applied to produce PeptAIde results in the bioactive target peptides plus other peptides with easily absorbable amino acids.
The resulting PeptAIde ingredient powder is mild tasting and versatile in applications such as bars and drink powders.
In fact, these outstanding product qualities have made PeptAIde an award-winning ingredient. It has recently received two prestigious awards—the Best Functional Ingredient of The Year award at FoodMattersLive and the Best Sports Nutrition Ingredient award by the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance.
What did you do in terms of validating the efficacy and appeal of PeptAIde?
In our clinical kinetic study on healthy volunteers, consumption of PeptAIde caused a mild suppression of pro-inflammatory TNF-α, IP-10 and NOx, whereas IL-6 increased temporarily. These markers returned to baseline after 24 hours. TNF-α is an important cytokine involved in the regulation of immune cells where it plays a central role in inflammation. In this study, the greatest impact was seen on IL-6. IL-6 is involved both in innate and adaptive immunity and thus as a multifunctional cytokine involved in recovery from sporting activities, but also in different pathological conditions.
Results from this clinical proof of concept study confirmed earlier in silico and in vitro observations that the AI-identified peptides modulate inflammation markers. PeptAIde’s properties are of interest for application areas including sports nutrition but can also be developed into ingredients benefitting wider inflammatory conditions.
Concurrently, we built up further evidence of consumer acceptance of the ingredient with consumer research conducted in Asia-Pacific and the United States. Our research yielded positive results in both regions amongst consumers who used PeptAIde, with 76 percent confirming they experienced less muscle soreness during their daily activities, 78 percent experiencing less muscle soreness on the same day after workout, and 76 percent indicating that they recover faster from their workout.
What other interesting insights did you get from the consumer research?
68 percent of the consumers researched indicated that they could perform their exercise routine at a higher intensity, and 72 percent experienced less muscle soreness during workout, suggesting a possible role for PeptAIde in support of sports performance too.
Consumers indicated good acceptance of both the bar and the beverage prototypes provided, and they expressed high consumer purchase intent above 80 percent, along with a willingness to pay a premium for such a product. These are all positive indicators for such a product to be launched.
So how can the benefits of PeptAIde be brought to more consumers and what’s in store for the future?
The unique qualities of PeptAIde is the first of its kind and a breakthrough. As a science-driven business, we’re confident there will be robust developments in the future. This unique concept of deriving functional health ingredients from specifically hydrolysed proteins is certainly a model for future food concepts addressing major health concerns including inflammation, blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and others.
PeptAIde is produced according to stringent quality standards in Germany at BASF’s food facility by an expert team who have developed the ingredient into a sports performance concept, ready to be brought to many global markets. We have also created several PeptAIde prototypes to showcase potential applications for this innovative and unique ingredient.
Additionally, BASF continues to strengthen the scientific evidence for PeptAIde. One example is via its Nutrition Asia Research Grant program which enables BASF to work in partnership with the academic community to address relevant health needs for consumers in the Asia Pacific region.
 Rein et al. 2019, Food & Function, DOI: 10.1039/C9FO01398A
 Based on current industry and research information as of January 2020.
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