Giving the immune system a fighting chance
When used in baked foods, Biothera Wellmune WGP stimulates neutrophils to boost the body's immune response.
BakingBusiness.com, Nov. 1, 2012
by Lucy Sutton

In today’s busy world, people can hardly afford to take time out of their work and personal lives to nurse a cold or flu. Proper diet, exercise and adequate sleep can help, but sometimes the body needs a little extra help to prevent common illnesses.

Supplements promising to enhance the body’s defenses against pathogens abound, but remembering to take a pill can be a roadblock for many consumers wishing to avoid getting sick. If only they could eat a cookie to get the same results.

Thanks to Wellmune WGP, a beta 1,3/1,6 glucan from Biothera, Eagan, MN, they can. “Wellmune is clinically proven to safely prime key immune cells that help keep the body healthy,” said Richard Mueller, president of Biothera’s Healthcare Group.

Derived from a proprietary strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (bakers yeast), Wellmune WGP is clinically proven to prime the immune system for activity without overstimulating it, which may be harmful in the long run, Mr. Mueller said. Stable under heat, pH, chemical and pressure fluctuations, Wellmune WGP has applications in foods, beverages and dietary supplements.

In 2010, Groupe Biscuits Leclerc, St. Augustin de Desmaures, QC, launched one of the first baked foods made with the ingredient. Praeventia cookies contain 100 mg of Wellmune WGP beta glucan per 30-g serving.

Consumed at a rate of 100 to 200 mg a day according to body weight, beta glucan activates neutrophils, key cells in the human immune system. Biothera recommends a daily serving of 2.5 mg of beta glucan per kg of body weight.

“We add the [Wellmune] powder to the mixer that is at room temperature, and then the cookies are extruded by a rotary moulder,” said Geneviève Baril, project manager, research and development, Biscuits Leclerc Ltd. “No heat is applied on the dough before the cookies go through the oven.”

Bakers can expect Wellmune to last for five years in their storage areas, and a finished product should have a one-year shelf life, according to Ms. Baril. On an ingredient legend, it can be listed as “β-glucan (Wellmune WGP).” Health benefits printed on packages can only be worded as structure-function claims.

Since its initial launch of Praeventia cookies with Wellmune WGP, Biscuits Leclerc added three snack bars that include the immune-boosting ingredient.

In another development, one of Canada’s largest food store chains, Metro, Inc. of Montreal, QC, now sells a line of artisan breads made with Wellmune WGP. Part of the company’s Life Smart Irresistibles Immuno Smart category of baked goods, the loaves are available in Whole Clove Garlic Petite Artisan Loaf or Sunflower Harvest Petite Artisan Loaf.

“Bread is a great delivery system because the whole family can easily enjoy the immune health benefits of Wellmune every day,” Mr. Mueller said. “Our ingredient is best taken daily because the body is constantly creating new innate immune cells for Wellmune to prime.”

As for exploring other applications, Ms. Baril advised bakers to test Wellmune as they would any other ingredient. “Wellmune is yeast beta glucan fiber, which like any fiber may bind some water with the possibility of increasing dryness in some product formulations,” she said. “This is a normal function of a fiber and can be modified in the final food product.”

Further information about Wellmune WGP, including several published studies on its efficacy, is available at www.wellmune.com.