New food-grade microorganisms which could improve the nutritional value of fermented as well as non-fermented dairy and soy foods are being developed in an EU-funded research project.
The new microbial strains are enhanced producers of low-energy sugars, digestion-stimulating oligosaccharides and essential B-vitamins. They may also have specific enzymes that hydrolyse anti-nutritional factors.
The health-promoting strains will be developed using traditional strains of lactic acid bacteria and propionic acid bacteria, or be genetically engineered Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum and Streptococcus thermophilus. The cultures will be used directly in fermented dairy or soy products or in fermentative production of nutraceutical ingredients.
The project is part of the European Quality of Life programme. It focuses on several different issues, such as the production of non-metabolisable sugars like trehalose, using optimal strains and metabolic engineering.
These sugars reduce the energy content of the product, may lengthen its shelf-life or may be prebiotic and so benefit health, claim the project organisers.
Other areas of research include Oligosaccharide production by genetically engineered L. lactis to be used as prebiotics (bifidogenic) and increased vitamin B production by metabolic engineering (folate) or genetic engineering (riboflavin).
More information on the project, number QLK1-2000-01376 (NUTRA CELLS), can be found at www.nizo.com.