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Functional foods is a term used on a broad spectrum of products, defines as everyday food and drink products with added ingredients at levels that confer specific health benefits to consumers. Meaning that these products are your everyday items which have additional ingredients added, to improve consumer health. The driving forces behind the development of functional products include growing scientific evidence surrounding certain nutrients and they're ability to confer health benefits, growing health care costs and the prevention of diseases.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO 2007) states, 'Functional foods are generally considered as those foods which are intended to be consumed as part of the normal diet and that contain biologically active components which offer the potential of enhanced health or reduced risk of disease.'
(Mintel 2008) defines 'functional food and drinks as products with health benefits beyond their nutritional value.' Meaning that functional foods are food products which have additional ingredients that can provide a positive, beneficial effect on the human body or on a specific function of the body. Products such as salmon which are naturally high in omega-3 are not functional foods as the omega-3 was not added to the product. This term can therefore encompass a wide range of products.
The marketing of functional foods is intrinsically linked with the health claims surrounding these products. From an industry point of view, if they're product has specific health-related effects, they best way to communicate this is through health claims. (Webb 2006)
There are no specific regulations concerning functional foods however, EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) do place functional food products under the EC Regulation on nutrition and health claims. (EFSA 2010)
Microbial cultures have been used for thousands of years to produce alcoholic beverages and to ferment foods, long before it was discovered that these processes were caused by microscopic organisms. As science advances, our understanding of these micro organisms increases, with the discovery of health benefits being attributed to certain strains
(Goldin 1998) defines probiotics as 'a live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its microbial balance.'
Probiotics have been defined as viable microbial food supplements which beneficially influence the health of the host. (Schrezenmier & De Vrese 2001)
FAO/WHO (Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation) state that probiotics are 'live micro organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.'
An effective human probiotic should be of human origin, meaning the specific strain types should be isolated from humans. All animals contain varying strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera but the most effective human probiotic is of human origin as the human intestines are sufficiently different from that of animals, meaning that the micro organisms isolated from animals would not be suited to the intestinal environment of humans (Kun Lee & Salminen 2009)
Probiotics are available in many different forms, comprising foods mainly in a fermented state and also pharmaceutical products, as capsules or in a microencapsulated form.
Probiotics are categorised under the functional food bracket and comprise between 60 - 70% of this sector. With the emphasis in todays society to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and the consumers increasing awareness, further developments can be expected towards new food based probiotic products. (Goktepe, Juneja & Ahmedna 2006)
A prebiotic can be defined as a non-digestible food ingredient, which aid the growth of the good microbiota present within the human intestinal tract. Gibson & Robertfroid (1995)
The human intestinal tract is colonized by a complex ecosystem of micro organisms, which have been proven to aid the host. Intestinal microbes have been found to provide a barrier to infection by intestinal pathogens, provide metabolic fuel for colonic epithelial cells and also help contribute to normal immune function. It is thought that by modifying the intestinal microbiota to maintain a beneficial balance of micro organisms may improve health. Kun Lee & Salminen (2009)
Prebiotics are used to manipulate the intestinal microbiota of the host. Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) state, 'Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the proliferation and/or activity of desirable bacterial populations already resident in the consumer's intestinal tract.' Meaning that selective ingredients used in food products encourage the growth of beneficial micro organisms that are already present within the human intestinal tract, which in turn confers the health benefits attributed to certain strains of friendly bacteria.
Since prebiotics can help enhance the growth of probiotics, there is obvious potential to combine both into food products which contain both probiotic and prebiotic ingredients. These foods are termed synbiotics.
A number of factors may influence the survival of probiotics in foods and it is important that these factors are considered at all stages between the addition of the probiotic into the food source and delivery of the probiotic to the gut of the consumer.
The viability of the chosen probiotic cultures is essential to ensure that high levels of live probiotic bacteria reach the intestinal tract.
Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) state the main factors to be considered that may influence the ability of the probiotics to survive in food products:
'The physiological state of the added probiotic
The physical and chemical conditions of food processing
The physical conditions of product storage
The chemical composition of the product
Interactions with other product components'
As probiotics are living bacteria, each species and strain will react differently to extrinsic and intrinsic factors such as temperature, pH, process, time and storage. It is vital to choose the right probiotic/s for the food product to maximise viability.
Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) state that 'while different probiotic strains have their own intrinsic tolerances to environmental conditions, tolerance can be influenced by how the culture is prepared. Stress responces can be exploited to make probiotic strains more resilient and likely to survive in food matrices.' Meaning that a probiotic strain can become more resilient to environmental conditions by subjecting them to harsher conditions slowly, they may become acclimatised.
The probiotics must also be capable of reaching the intestines in high levels to confer the health benefits attributed, the human digestive tract is a harsh environment that the probiotics must be resistant enough to pass through it in high levels.
Turgut & Cakmakci (2009) state that if the culture is to survive, 'the strain must be resistant to bile salts present in the lower intestine, gastric conditions of pH 1-4, enzymes present in the intestine and toxic metabolites produced during digestion.'
Ding & Shah (2007) state that in order for to exert the attributed health benefits, probiotic bacteria must survive at levels of 107 CFU of live micro organisms per millilitre of product at time of consumption. These probiotic organisms should be able to withstand adverse conditions encountered within the upper intestinal tract such as acidity and bile concentrations, however many probiotic bacteria lack the ability survive these harsh conditions.
Microencapsulation of probiotic bacteria is a method to improve stability of probiotic organisms in functional food products.
Ding & Shah (2007) state that 'microencapsulation is a method of protecting the cells from adverse environment, and mild heat treatment from food processing thus potentially reducing cell injury and death.' Also suggested is a need for microencapsulation not only to help the probiotic bacteria survive in the food product but also during the passage through the human intestinal tract.
Kailasapathy (2002) state that 'the most commonly reported micro-encapsulation procedure is based on the calcium-alginate gel capsule formation. Kappa-carrageenan, gellan gum, gelatin and starch are also used as excipients for the micro-encapsulation of probiotic bacteria.'
Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) say that 'probiotic organisms are generally selected from constituent intestinal lactobacilli and biffidobacteria. These probiotic bacteria have evolved to grow and survive in environmental conditions within the human intestinal tract.'
The strains chosen for this research project are Lactobacillus acidophilus (LA-5) and Biffidobacterium Lactis (BB-12).
Lactobacillus acidophilus (LA-5) belongs to the group of Gram-positive non-sporulating facultative rods that have been used in the production of probiotic dairy products, dietary supplements and fermented milk products. LA-5 has no adverse effects on the taste, appearance or palatability of the product and furthermore, it is able to survive in the product until consumption.
Once consumed, LA-5 is able to survive through the stomach and upper small intestine due to its tolerance of stomach and bile acid and resistance to digestive enzymes. Once in the intestinal tract, LA-5 ferments glucose to produce lactic and acetic acids thus decreasing the intestinal pH, making the environment less favourable to potentially pathogenic bacteria. Kun Lee & Salminen (2009)
Biffidobacterium lactis (BB-12) are Gram-positive, non-motile, anaerobic bacteria that take a variety of shapes. These organisms are natural inhabitants in the gut of humans. They are used in the production of probiotic dairy products, infant formulas, dietary supplements and fermented milk products. BB-12 has good stability and high acid and bile tolerance with no adverse effects on taste, appearance or palatability of the product. BB-12 is able to survive in the product until consumption.
Due to BB-12's tolerance of stomach and acid bile it is able to survive passage through the stomach and upper small intestine.
BB-12 plays a role in reducing intestinal pH by the production of lactic and acetic acids, thus restricting the growth of many potential pathogenic bacteria. Kun Lee & Salminen (2009)
Health Benefits: BB-12
Biffidobacterium lactis is a well documented probiotic that has been used in probiotic products worldwide. Certain types of diarrhoeas have been found to be significantly improved when BB-12 combined with other probiotic strains is administered. Traveller's diarrhoea is a common problem encountered by travelling to regions of poor hygiene. The main cause of this condition is the intake of food or water infected with pathogenic organisms such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) say that several studies have been carried out to assess if probioitc have a significant affect on travellers diarrhoea. The results showed that BB-12 together with other probiotic strains significantly decreased the frequency of diarrhoea in the supplemented group (43%) compared to the placebo group (71%).
This suggests that BB-12 combined with other probiotic strains improve symptoms of traveller's diarrhoea.
Antibiotic induced diarrhoea is a potential side effect when using antibiotics. This is caused by the antibiotics disturbing the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria within the intestinal tract. Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) have documented that studies found improvement in the symptoms of antibiotic induced diarrhoea when supplemented with BB-12 and LA-5.
Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) state that BB-12 may improve constipation when subjects are supplemented with bifidobacteria thus improving the natural bowel function. Studies show that the probiotic group showed a significant improvement in the frequency of bowel movement with no reported adverse side effects.
Health Benefits: LA-5
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a well documented probiotic culture which has been used in probiotic products worldwide. This probiotic bacteria improves microbial balance in the intestinal tract of humans by creating an environment that is less favourable for the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Lactobacilli play a significant role in controlling intestinal pH through the production of lactic and acetic acids thus restricting the growth of many pathogenic bacteria.
Diarrhoea is a common health problem and certain probiotics have been studied to research the possibility that they may improve certain forms of diarrhoea. Traveller's diarrhoea and antibiotic induced diarrhoea as mentioned for BB-12, are also significantly improved through the supplementation of LA-5 together with other strains of probiotics. Kun Lee & Salminen (2009)
Kun Lee & Salminen (2009) state 'supplementing LA-5 in milk significantly decreased breath hydrogen values in lactose in tolerance subjects comparing with milk alone, indicating lactose degradation.' Lactose intolerance is when the body does not produce the enzyme lactase which is needed to breakdown lactose. Lower hydrogen levels in the breath are an indication that the LA-5 probiotic is improving the breakdown of lactose.
Kun Lee and Salminen (2009) suggest that the health effects of LA-5 may include the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer breast cells, the occurrence of fever was delayed after administration of LA-5 and BB-12 in patients with acute leukaemia.
As the functional food market grows, probiotic products are becoming increasingly popular. The emphasis on healthy life styles are increasing consumer awareness. In today's society which is about convenience, food manufactures have to produce products which will give the consumer what they want. Consumers want healthier options but also do not want to compromise on convenience. Below are a few of the probiotic products available.
Danone have a probiotic drinking yoghurt called Actimel. It contains the probiotic cultures, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus along with Danones own probiotic culture, L.casei Imunitass. On the Actimel website it states that, 'the beneficial effects of Actimel have been researched for more than 15 years. During this time, 24 publications of clinical studies have been conducted on over 3000 subjects supporting the health benefits of Actimel. They show that Actimel helps support the body's defences.' www.actimel.co.uk (2010)
Yakult is a probiotic drink available; the culture they use is called Lactobacillus casei Shirota. On the Yakult website they state that the good bacteria in Yakult are strong enough to survive passage through the intestinal tract alive in sufficient numbers to help support the good bacteria already present. The website suggests that drinking one bottle of Yakult daily can help keep your gut healthy and improve your natural defenses. www.yakult.co.uk (2010)
Healthspan, is an online shop selling probiotic cultures contained in capsules. There are three cultures used within this product, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacteria lactis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The website states that these three cultures are well researched and are able to survive passage through the human intestinal tract to improve microbial balance.
The website also states that 'each gelatin free capsule contains some prebiotic FOS to help stimulate the growth and activity of the 'friendly' bacteria, ensuring they flourish.' This product can be termed a symbiotic as it is a probiotic and prebiotic working together.
In India, a probiotic ice cream is available called Amul. On the website, the product is termed as India's first probiotic ice cream. The strain used in this product is not mention on the website. The marketing behind this product is as stated:
Prevent gut infection
Manages traveler's diarrhoea '