Monday, February 25, 2008
More on Probiotics and a bit on Prebiotics
I have more information on probiotics and prebiotics- here it is!
The first scientist to observe the positive role of played by some bacteria was a Russian, Eli Metchinkoff, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Metchinoff had a theory that the longevity of the Bulgarians was due to their huge yogourt intakes. He explained that the good bacteria (which he named after the Bulgarians: Lactobacillus bulgaricus) replaces the bad bacteria in the intestine. Yogourt was elevated to a rank of wonder despite the fact that Metchinkoff had no real evidence for his theory of for his notion that Bulgarians lived a long time.
Metchinkoff was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908 for work unrelated to yogourt but that propelled yogourt to a health staple in the Balkans and Russia. In fact, when the former Soviet Union launched its space flight program, it established a microbiology lab to study the astronauts' gut bacteria. Researchers experimented with giving the astronauts yogourt before their mission and collecting bacteria from their saliva and intestines when they returned to Earth. They then cultured these bacteria that had withstood space travel to make a "healthier" yogourt!
A commercial variety of yogourt made with bacteria cultured from astronauts is still being sold as a health food... Yum!!
I don't think I included the definition of a probiotic. It's "a live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance".
Yogourt, if made with the right baceria, falls into this category. Traditionally, yogourt has been made with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus but it was found that these bacteria are acid sensitive and don't make it past the stomach. Acidophilus, Bifido baceria, Bio-K+ and Lactobacillus GG seem to survive the stomach acid and make it into the gut where they have been shown, as I talked about previously, to replace bad bacteria in the gut like Clostridium difficile that's often responsible for diarrhea.
Probiotics can also help with Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies if give to children at an early age.
What's a prebiotic? A substance that stimulates growth of specific bacteria in the colon. Non-digestible carbohydrates are prebiotics, ie. fibre, because they're not digested and therefore pass through to the intestines unchanged and collect in the colon.There, they foster the growth of good bacteria and limit the multiplication of harmful ones.
Examples of prebiotics (indigestible carbs) you'll see on ingredient labels are: lactulose, inulin and fructooligosaccharides. Prebiotics are at the forefront of nutrition research because of potential benefits include the prevention of abnormal cell proliferation (that leads to cancer), improved mineral absorption (ie. calcium) and reduced blood cholesterol.
In Japan, they have many foods on the market fortified with inulin and fructooligosaccharides and the trend is coming our way. The studies show that we need a minimum of 4 grams prebiotics a day to get the benefits.
Source: That's the way the cookie crumbles by Dr. Joe Schwarcz