The PROTECH project - Keeping probiotic bacteria alive in food products

January 22, 2003

Brussels, 21 Jan 2003

An EU funded project is exploring the beneficial nature of probiotic bacteria and testing viable methods for its survival throughout the processing treatments, storage conditions and stressful acidic conditions in the human body.

Probiotic bacteria restore the valuable bacteria found in a healthy digestive tract, aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients while assisting the elimination of waste.

The PROTECH project, 'Keeping the good bacteria alive and healthy so that they can keep you healthy', aims to produce a model that can maximise the viability of probiotics through processing so that the bacteria can be used in other food products such as breakfast cereals and muesli bars. In the long term, it is hoped that the project will ensure that probiotic food products will deliver the additional health benefits that they promise.

The project is funded under the Quality of Life programme of the Fifth Framework Programme. It involves partners from six EU Member States and Switzerland and has a total budget of 3.01 million euro.

The project is exploring the various factors that influence the viability and stability of probiotic bacteria through several steps, using yoghurt as one of the model products.

There is a growing demand today among consumers for more and more food products that have additional nutritional benefits. Yoghurt is widely considered to be a health promoting food, as it is able to carry advantageous bacteria into the intestinal tract. However, making sure that the probiotic bacteria get to the intestine is a challenging task for researchers.

Among the influencing factors is the acidity of yoghurt. Tests have shown that the viability of the bacteria is somewhat improved if the acidity of the yoghurt is increased.

The storage temperature and duration also affect the survival rate of the probiotic bacteria. Researchers found that the storage temperature had to remain at four degrees Celsius during a four week storage period. In contrast, keeping the probiotic yoghurt at room temperature resulted in damaged bacteria. This clearly illustrates the necessity of keeping probiotic yoghurt chilled so that it retains its additional health benefits.

However, the probiotic bacteria also have to withstand the acidic conditions and bile solutions of the human body. This last stage is problematic for researchers as there are several strains of probiotic bacteria, meaning that technologies have to be adapted to each bacteria; freezing and heating will affect the variety of strains differently. It has also been noted that, for some strains, a suitable amount of stress can improve the bacteria's endurance. http://www.vtt.fi/virtual/proeuhealth/in dex.htm

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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