The probiotics are defined as live microbial additives, particularly beneficial for the human health.
Inclusion of probiotics in the human diet is considered the most promising concept for overcoming the influence of the negative health factors caused by the lifestyle of the modern man. The increase of the probiotic products consumption leads to qualitative improvement of the human health status and decreased use of pharmaceuticals.
Nowadays there are plenty of probiotic preparations available on the market in USA, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, etc., based on different microbiological compositions (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacteriae, etc.).
Definitions of the term “probiotics” in recent years are listed below:
- “Oral probiotics are living micro-organisms, which upon ingestion in certain numbers, exert health benefits beyond inherent basic nutrition”. LABIP consensus definition (Guarner & Schaafsma, 1998).
- “A live microbial food ingredient that is beneficial to health”. Proposed by Salminen et al. (1998) and adopted as consensus definition by the FUFOSE Concerted Action sponsored by the European Commission (Diplock et al. 1999).
- “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Definition by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Working Group (2002). The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics recently adopted this definition (Reid et al. 2003).
- “Probiotic bacteria are live food supplements which benefit the health of the consumer”, as defined in the legal proposal by the European Commission.
Probiotic preparations include mainly lactic acid bacteria of the genera Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, but also yeasts (Saccharomyces boulardii) or other bacterial species (Bacillus coagulans, Escherichia coli Nissle 1917, etc.).
Prebiotics are a category of functional food, defined as non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improve host health. Appropriate combinations of pre- and probiotics are called synbiotics.
Consumption of yoghurt has been shown to induce measurable health benefits linked to the presence of live bacteria, as compared with products with heat-killed bacteria. Thus, yoghurt starter cultures clearly fulfill the current concept of probiotics at least for its beneficial effect on lactose digestion in vivo. Some yoghurt cultures were shown to induce other health benefits such as reduction in severity and duration of acute diarrhoea, prevention of allergic disorders, immunomodulation, protective effect against colon cancer, improvement of lactose digestion and elimination of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, etc.