Tata Chemicals is building a food business keeping health as its focus especially when the definition of what constitutes healthy food keeps changing. It is trying to build a business around the microbiome, the scientific name for the complete set of microorganisms living in our bodies.
The discovery of the role of microorganisms in disease has uncovered an entirely new field that is growing in sophistication every day, and providing clues to what really happens in our bodies.
Collaboration between Yale University and the Tata Group has been looking at the interactions between the gut bacteria and the immune system. Tata Chemicals started a project to understand the role of gut bacteria in health and disease, and specifically on the role of prebiotics and gut bacteria and physiology.
Yale and Tata Chemicals together look at two kinds of food products and gut bacteria: Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). FOS is found in nature, mainly in vegetables like onions, chicory root, garlic and asparagus. They are sweet, indigestible and considered good food for beneficial bacteria. GOS are found normally in human breast milk.
The company’s larger goal is to transition dietary supplements from a poorly-understood field to a true understanding of the mechanisms by which they have their effects FOS and GOS are sometimes called prebiotics, and are becoming a popular form of dietary supplement.
The Yale-Tata programme studies the effect of FOS and GOS on pure bacteria, a mix of bacteria, and inside an actual animal gut. Scientists take germ-free mice, a form of mice bred specifically for microbiome experiments, and transplant human bacteria into their gut.