Making a case for 'friendly' bacteria

by Staff
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Probiotics could have a future in U.S. diets, provided consumers are willing to accept "friendly" bacteria in their food.

Probiotics are living microorganisms. They potentially may provide health benefits in the areas of immune functions, constipation, colon cancer, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease (I.B.D.), irritable bowel syndrome (I.B.S.), and lactose intolerance, according to a Dannon Probiotics Center.

Probiotics have allies in prebiotics, which may stimulate growth of probiotics in the colon.

Probiotics take up space in the digestive system and keep bad bacteria out, said James Kopp, vice-president for Lallemand Advanced Baking Solutions. These "friendly" bacteria prefer low heat, low humidity and low water levels.

"Chocolate is absolutely a wonderful environment," Mr. Kopp said. Lallemand owns Institut Rosell, Inc., a Montreal-based company that manages Lallemand’s human nutrition and health activities and studies probiotics.

Probiotics have worked in applications for yogurt, cheese and infant formulas, Mr. Kopp said. Lallemand executives believe they have a future in creme sauces, chocolates and oils.

Examples in dairy

Food manufacturers still may wonder if U.S. consumers will buy food with bacteria in it. Education is needed. The Dannon Co., Inc., White Plains, N.Y., has set up a web site at with hopes of educating consumers, media and health care professionals.

A few companies already promote probiotics in U.S. dairy products. Dannon offers DanActive, a cultured probiotic dairy drink that contains 10 times more cultures than yogurt. Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., adds six live active cultures to all of its yogurts.

Consumers in Europe and Asia have accepted probiotics in their food more quickly, Mr. Kopp said.

MiekpolGrajewo, a leading dairy producer from Poland, is manufacturing its lines of Milko buttermilk, yogurt, kefir and sour cream with the documented probiotic culture L. casei 431 from Chr. Hansen. Advertisements on television, in print publications and on billboards promote the probiotic products.

Ljubljanske Miekarne, a leading dairy processor in Slovenia, last year launched a range of yogurts, yogurt dairy desserts containing Howaru cultures from Danisco. A marketing campaign included commercials on television and on radio, print advert i s e m e n t s , billboards, a web site and contests.

In South America, Soprole, a dairy processor, gained exclusive rights in Chile to use Danisco’s probiotic strain Howaru Rhamnosus.

Back in the United States, Chr. Hansen, Inc., which has an office in Milwaukee, will showcase its probiotics line of ingredients at the SupplySide East International Tradeshow and Conference May 4-6 in Baltimore.

More than 50 clinical studies conducted on Chr. Hansen’s BB-12 Bifidobacterium, LA-5 Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. casei 431 showed enhanced intestinal well-being and positive effects in other health areas. Proprietary encapsulation and tableting technology allows the company’s probiotic bacteria to survive passage through the stomach and reach the small intestine.

An ally in digestion

Since heat, humidity and other processing conditions may destroy probiotics, incorporating them into baked foods becomes a problem.

Fortunately, many prebiotic fibers survive the baking process. Once the prebiotic fibers are digested, they make their way to the large intestine and colon, where they can stimulate growth in probiotics already there.

A study last year looked at how probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics (a combination of prebiotics and probiotics) may have an effect on the risk of colorectal cancer.

Orafti Active Food Ingredients, Malvern, Pa., coordinated the SYNCAN project, a multi-center European study. It involved 80 human volunteers who either had had intestinal polyps (precancerous lesions) removed or had been treated for colon cancer.

The results showed the symbiotic treatment positively modulated several bio-markers for colon cancer risk.

Ingredient companies already have prebiotic fibers on the market.

Orafti offers Raftilose Synergy1, which includes both inulin and oligofructose. Danisco offers Litesse polydextrose, a prebiotic used in baked foods, nutrition bars, cereals, frozen desserts, confectioneries and beverages. Oliggo-Fiber inulin from Cargill works in bakery, beverage and dairy applications. One yogurt brand, Yoplait Nouriche, has inulin in it.

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