The firm said today that the deal with TNO would see exopolysaccharide-producing probiotic strains aimed at the growing European obesity problem. The agreement is another clear indicator of the probiotics market's expansion, as firms have increasingly been looking at using probiotics in different food products, and aiming their use at markets outside of the traditional gut health and immune system uses. Probiotics, however, are not limited to these two types of applications, and increasingly studies have linked the friendly bacteria to easing eczema and asthma in babies. A study this summer even linked probiotics to helping reduce sepsis and cut mortality from acute burns. Dutch research has also suggested that probiotics can help stop hunger by inducing satiation and favourably effect insulin and blood glucose levels in humans. Overweight and obesity are one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century, Danisco said, adding that: "Considering the large numbers of obese people and the risks involved, there is great attention from both governments and the food industry to look for solutions to these problems." Indeed, data collected by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) and by the WHO suggests more than half of the population in the European Union is overweight. According to the IOTF in Austria one person in three is overweight and one person in five is obese, and it is predicted that the incidence of obesity will double in the next four decades in Europe. The weight loss and management market is estimated be worth $7bn (€5.2bn) globally. Obesity has been linked to contributing to a large number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome and arthritis. TNO has conducted, in collaboration with the Dutch University of Groningen, a multi-yearly R&D program on exopolysaccharides, which led to the discovery that some exopolysaccharides could be used in weight management applications, Danisco said. Findings have also been published in the Good Clinical Practice journal. Dr. Hans Boumans, Product Manager Food Ingredients at TNO said: "We are very pleased that our research effort and expertise in health-promoting bioactive ingredients will result in commercial applications creating value for the food industry which is TNO's mission." The announcement also comes just weeks after Chr Hansen said it would launch a probiotic at the child health market, which it said is a largely untapped resource.