New study finds sugar beet can balance skin microbiota

By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

- Last updated on GMT

Image credit: Adobe
Image credit: Adobe

Related tags: study, Skin care, Sugar beet, microbiota

Italian and French researchers have identified that short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS) in sugar beet have a positive impact on skin microbiota by restricting the opportunity for pathogen development and encouraging beneficial bacteria growth.

The findings, published on June 11, 2022, in the Scientific Reports​ journal, reveal that short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS) from sugar beet (DP3–5) can balance skin microbiota, which may offer potential areas of development for skin care producers.

The scFOS component found within sugar beet refers to a mixture of oligosaccharides consisting of glucose linked to fructose units, cited by Bouhnik et al. (2007)​. They are considered well-known prebiotics and are recognised for their prebiotic properties on gut microbiota and overall beneficial impact on human health.

The skin microbiota comprises millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses, Byrde et al. (2018) stated in their research study, The human skin microbiome​. 

Prebiotic potential

In skin care, prebiotics have gained increasing prominence due to their capabilities in balancing various microbial communities to create positive benefits. To date, however, there is limited information and understanding of their impact on skin microbiota modulators.

The prebiotic scFOS analysed in the new study is taken from sugar beet sucrose via an enzymatic reaction. The enzyme is proprietary and creates a short-chain structure with a degree of polymerisation between three and five.

Scientists behind the study found the ingredient can balance the skin’s network of microorganisms by inhibiting the potential for pathogens to grow and promoting the expansion of beneficial bacteria, increasing the likelihood of good bacteria in the skin microbiota.

The role of sugar beet ingredient on skin microbiota

The new study sought to understand the impact of scFOS on skin microbiota. Researchers from the Tereos and Escin-EcamRicert Laboratory examined the role of scFOS with the objective of evaluating the part scFOS plays on some of the skin microbiota’s representative bacterial strains.

Researchers in the study analysed the growth and activity of the scFOS in sugar beets to measure its competitiveness and understand how the specific bacteria is used as an energy source. The scientists explored how scFOS acts as an energy source in a minimal growth medium and in a reconstructed human epithelium (RHE) in vitro model.

Findings reveal scFOS long-term effect

During the study, the researchers chose three bacterial strains from the human skin microbiota: Staphylococcus epidermidis​ (S. epidermidis), Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) ​and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus)​. In the minimal growth medium, the study’s findings revealed that scFOS helped and sustained the growth of S. epidermidis ​for up to 24 hours while limiting the development of both C. acnes and S. aureus.

The bacterial strain S. epidermidis​ is tipped as a healthy and beneficial skin commensal bacteria, which acts on the host’s immune system to introduce protective responses that avoid pathogen colonisation and invasion, Khan et al. (2019)​ stated. Both C. acnes and S. aureus​, on the other hand, are considered to be opportunistic pathogens.

The S. epidermidis​ bacteria strain demonstrated the highest colonisation opportunity in the study. Additionally, in the examined RHE model, 1% of scFOS was effective in moving the competition towards S. epidermidis​ in relation to C. acnes. ​Researchers found this bacterial activity after 24 hours of exposure, indicating scFOS’s long-term effect in a highly skin-dynamic environment.

scFOS potential in skincare

In recent years, skin care brands and formulators have delved into the human skin microbiota’s role in health and wellbeing. The researchers in this study recognised that the human skin microbiota is crucial in maintaining healthy skin, “ensuring protection and biological barrier by competing with pathogens and by closely communicating with the immune system”​.

In drawing on their findings the researchers said the “information provided reassuring data information on the ability for scFOS to be used safely as a cosmetic ingredient, before going further with our study targeting the skin microbiota composition”.

Overall, the researchers concluded that “scFOS could be effectively implemented in skincare formulations for recovering skin microbiota homeostasis”.​ Researchers also concluded that scFOS did not require classification as a skin irritant or skin corrosive. There was also no skin sensitisation potential, the researchers found, after they performed a local lymph node assay with the substance.

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