from Winnipeg Free Press / Brandon Sun
Original Brandon Sun Article

Armed with positive results from a clinical trial conducted by the St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre, a Carberry company is now full speed ahead shipping a natural health product that can provide relief especially to seniors with digestive issues.

MSPrebiotics Inc. has been extracting a digestion resistant starch supplement from potatoes for more than a decade and selling it to hog producers.

But at one point Earl McLaren, CEO of the company, learned that the piglet gut biology was used as a model for pre-human trials for all sorts of treatments.

Having plenty of that kind of starch — prebiotics — in the gut provides food for probiotics and all of it contributes to good health and lessens the discomfort of all sorts of gastrointestinal discomforts.

“We were doing very well with hog producers and from there the logical next step was a clinical trial (to test for human treatment),” McLaren said.

The results of the clinical trial, just published in the peer reviewed journal Clinical Nutrition, showed that MSPrebiotics significantly increased the abundance of good bacteria. Elderly people taking MSPrebiotic had reduced constipation and an increase in the kind of good bacteria the probiotics consume, contributing to better gut health.

The clinical trial, led by Michelle Alfa, a clinical microbiologist at St. Boniface, found that use of the MSPrebiotic significantly reduced bad bacteria and increased good bacteria in trial participants 70 years old and older and also in a participant group aged 30 to 50. It also created a meaningful decrease in blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, which will be the subject of a subsequent peer reviewed article.

McLaren and his brother Derek have been partners in business for more than 40 years starting with a potato farm in the Carberry area. The entrepreneurial brothers got into equipment manufacturing, making specialized gear for the potato production business for a while but were not able to get to the scale they needed.

They started working on the starch extract in 2004 with good results and plenty of demand from hog producers.

The move to the natural supplement for the human market started a few years ago when discussion began to engage in the lengthy process of a clinical trial which took place last year.

The project had a host of collaborators from Manitoba including from Deer Lodge where many of the trial participants live.

The McLaren brothers have invested more than $2 million in plant and office expansion, and have doubled their staff to 15 and expect that could grow to 50 as marketing and sales get ramped up.

“We’re now getting big into the marketing and global awareness side of things,” said Derek McLaren.

The product is now in about 50 stores in the Toronto area and last week Vita Health started carrying it in its Manitoba stores. The company hopes to break into the U.S. market in California and they fully expect to expand into other international markets.

“If you have clinical data … that is golden when you have that to prove the efficacy and safety,” Derek said. “We are really excited as we enter the market now. There are so many issues about gut health and diabetes. We are really getting good results. Health food stores really want the product.”

The McLarens have all sorts of help from the NRC-IRAP and were glad they were able to do the trial in Winnipeg at the Asper Clinical Research Institute, at the St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre.

“The most satisfying thing for us as business owners is knowing that our work is helping to create jobs in our community,” Earl McLaren said. “As we continue to expand sales across Canada, south of the border and overseas, it just tickles us to be able to look out the office window and be able to see the family farm across the highway.”

» Winnipeg Free Press