Experts meeting at a symposium on probiotics this autumn said that further scientific support is needed to explore the strong potential for health benefits of these bacteria.
The scientists, nutritionists and food technologists heard that there is still much to discover on the mechanisms through which probiotics act on human health. For example, the microbial ecology of the gastro-intestinal tract and the various mucus membranes of the human body is not sufficiently documented. Despite this, we now have better performing tools to study these complicated systems, participants at the 'Probiotics and Health: Biofunctional Perspectives' symposium in Montreal heard.
Dr. S. Bengmark, from Lund University in Sweden, Dr. G. Reid of the University of Western Ontario in Canada and Dr. Gionchetti from the University of Bologna, Italy, said that blends of various probiotic strains seem to present the best chances of success in most therapeutic applications of probiotics. Dr. Bengmark also suggested that the probiotic blends be supplemented with prebiotic blends, including beta-glucans, inuline, pectin and resistant starch.
Scientists also added that it is not yet well established that certain digestive tract diseases are linked to an imbalancedmicroflora. However, it is becoming evident that probiotics help to stop certain syndromes or infections, such as IBS. Furthermore, studies show probiotics can also have benefits for healthy individuals.
Other discussion areas included the increasingamount of medical evidence, especially in gastroenterology, that patients of pouchitis, IBS, lactose intolerance andulcerative colitis can all gain from probiotics use. Researchers from Finland showed that probiotics can stem allergic reactions to foods, such as atopic eczema, by reducing inflammation.
Dr Roy, from CRDA, Quebec, Canada, discussed new foods that could serve as carriers for probiotics. He said cheese could be a better carrier for probiotics than yoghurt and fermented milks as it can contain a much higher concentration of probiotic bacteria and the fat matrix can assure a better protection.
The experts concluded on the safety aspect. They said there is no scientific evidence to prove that probiotics present a health risk, although certain individuals with weakened immune systems, including immuno-compromisedand post-surgical patients, should be careful, but lactic acid bacteria are otherwise remarkably safe organisms. Also they have great potential for new applications that improve food safety and human health andlegislation should encourage these new developments, according to Dr Sanders of Dairy and Food Culture Technologies, US.
Further information on the symposium, 'Probiotics and Health: Biofunctional Perspectives', held on October 24-25 2002 in Montreal, Canada, can be obtained from sponsor Institut Rosell Lallemand.