Application of Probiotics

Research indicates a wide range of health benefits of probiotics to the host, which stimulates the development of functional foods supplemented with probiotics. The past 20 years witnessed the increased interest of consumers in probiotics derived products. The presence of probiotics in commercial food products delivers certain health benefits, resulting in various applications of probiotics in food market.

Dairy-based probiotics foods

Milk and milk-related products are ideal vehicle of probiotic strains due to their inherent properties. Probiotics can be found in a wide variety of commercial dairy products, such as fresh milk, yogurt, and cheese. In addition, most milk and milk products are stored at refrigerated temperatures, which provide a suitable environment for probiotic bacteria before they are delivered to human body. Several factors need to be addressed for applying probiotics in dairy products such as viability of probiotics in dairy, the physical and chemical properties of final products, the probiotic health effect, and the regulations and labeling issues.

  • Drinkable fresh milk and fermented milk
  • Among probiotics carrier food products, dairy drinks were the first commercialized products that are still consumed in larger quantities than other probiotic beverages. Among the probiotic bacteria used in the manufacture of dairy beverages, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is the most widely used because of its bile resistance. Other prevalent commercial probiotic in dairy beverages are L. acidophilusL. casei, and L. plantarum. Factors affecting the viability of probiotic cultures in fermented milk have to be strictly regulated and maintained, such as acidity, pH, dissolved oxygen content A wide range of dairy beverages that contain probiotic bacteria is available for consumers in the market including: Acidophilus milk, Sweet acidophilus milk, Nu-Trish A/B, Bifidus milk, Acidophilus buttermilk, Yakult, Procult drink, Actimel, Gaio, ProViva, and others.

  • Yogurt
  • Yogurt is one of the original sources of probiotics and it continues to remain a popular probiotic product nowadays due to its nutritional value and health benefits. Yogurt is produced using a culture of L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus bacteria. In addition, other Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are also sometimes added during or after culturing yogurt. The probiotic characteristics of these bacterial strains that form the yogurt culture are still debatable. Numerous factors may affect the survival of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in yogurt. These include strains of probiotic bacteria, pH, presence of hydrogen peroxide and dissolved oxygen, concentration of metabolites such as lactic acid and acetic acids, buffering capacity of the media as well as the storage temperature.

  • Cheese
  • Cheese, as an alternative probiotics carrier, has a number of advantages over yogurt and fermented milks. Cheese has higher pH and buffering capacity, diverse nutritional compounds, high energy, more solid consistency, relatively higher fat content, and longer shelf life. Several studies have demonstrated a high survival rate of probiotics in cheese at the end of shelf life and high viable cells. Probiotics in cheese were found to survive the passage through the simulated human gastrointestinal tract and significantly increase the numbers of probiotic cells in the gut. Cheese was introduced to probiotic industry in 2006, with only few probiotic cheese products found on the market. Nowadays, there are over 200 commercial probiotic cheeses in various forms, such as fresh, semi-hard, hard cheese in the marketplaces. Semi-hard and hard cheese, compared to yogurt as a carrier for probiotics, has relatively low recommended daily intake and need relatively high inoculation level of probiotics (about 4 to 5 times). Fresh cheese like cottage cheese has high recommended daily intake, limited shelf life with refrigerated storage temperature.

Non diary-based probiotic products

With an increase in the consumer vegetarianism throughout the developed countries, there is a high demand for the vegetarian probiotic products. Non-dairy probiotic products have attracted many vegetarians and lactose intolerance customers. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, about 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant. The development of new non-dairy probiotic food products is imperative.  

  • Fermented vegetables
  • Fermentation of vegetables has been mastered by human since ancient time. Fermented vegetables offer a suitable media to deliver probiotics. However, it shows that the low incubation temperature of vegetable fermentation is a problem for the introduction of the traditional L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium probiotic bacteria. Probiotic of L. rhamnosusL. casei and L. plantarum are better adapted to the vegetable during fermentation. Sauerkraut-type products such as fermented cabbage, carrots, onions, and cucumbers based on a lactic fermentation by L. plantarum could be good probiotic carrier. 

  • Fermented soymilk
  • Soybean has received attention due to its high protein and quality, which provides ideal environment for the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Soymilk is now known for their health benefits such as prevention of chronic diseases such as menopausal disorder, cancer, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis, therefore, soymilk fermented with Bifidobacterium may be a unique functional food. In probiotic soy products, fermentation by probiotics has the potential to (1) reduce the levels of some carbohydrates possibly responsible for gas production in the intestinal system, (2) increase the levels of free isoflavones, which has many beneficial effects on human health, and (3) favor desirable changes in bacterial populations in the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Fermented fruit products
  • There is increasing interest in the development of fruit-juice based probiotic products nowadays. Fruit juice contains beneficial nutrients that can be an ideal medium for probiotics. Fruit juice also has pleasing taste to all age groups and they are perceived as being healthy and refreshing. Fruits are rich in nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, dietary fibers, antioxidants, and do not contain any dairy allergens that might prevent usage by certain segments of the population. Those characteristics allow the selection of appropriate strains of probiotics to manufacture enjoyable healthy fruit juice.

  • Fermented cereal products
  • Cereal-based probiotic products have health-benefiting microbes and potentially prebiotic fibers. The development of new functional foods which combine the beneficial effects of cereals and health promoting bacteria is a hot topic with challenging issues. Cereals are good substrates for the growth of probiotic strains and due to the presence of non-digestible components of the cereal matrix may also serve as prebiotics. Due to the complexity of cereals, a systematic approach is required to identify the factors that enhance the growth of probiotic in cereals. India, Mexico, Sweden, Ethiopia and some other countries have diverse cereal products fermented on rice, wheat, sorghum, oatmeal, maize, corn, barley, and millet by Lactobacillus.

  • Fermented meat products
  • Probiotic applications are restricted to fermented meats, such as dry sausages. The idea of using probiotic bacteria in fermenting meat products has introduced the idea of using antimicrobial peptides, such as bacteriocins, or other antimicrobial compounds as an extra hurdle for meat products. Lactobacillus is the most common used starter culture in meat which produce lactic acid from glucose or lactose. As indicated in commercial catalogues Lactobacillus strains currently most employed in meat starter cultures are L. casei, L. curvatus, L. pentosus, L. plantarum, and L. sakei.

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