Science stacks up for robust probiotic benefits

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Probiotic

Spore-forming probiotics such as Bacillus coagulans with higher heat resistance than commonly used strains have a bright future in sectors such as baked foods, according to a new review study.

Most probiotics – live microbes that improve human health – use lactobacilli or bifidobacteria as their main constituents, where these produce lactic acid alongside other anti-pathogens.

Traditionally, probiotics are used in dairy products such as yoghurts or fermented drinks (or in freeze-dried forms), where due to stability and viability factors, heated products are not usually used as probiotic delivery vehicles.

Accordingly, Keller et al. in a December 2010 study published in the Food Science and Technology Bulletin​ looked at the ability of spore-forming genus Bacillus coagulans​ to overcome this problem, where it is claimed to be able to withstand being baked, boiled and even frozen.

This is due to the fact that - according to UK distributor of BC30​ Cornelius - the inside of each bacterial cell has a hardened structure, or spore, which is analogous to a seed.

New functional food applications

Keller et al. wrote: “The ability to resist high temperatures and develop spores is attractive from the viewpoint of withstanding baking temperatures and opening up more food delivery systems for probiotic use.”

Starting upon the basis of work by Casula and Cutting (2002) that concluded Bacillus ​spores had immuno-stimulatory and anti-microbial effects, the authors looked at evidence of the probiotic advantages of proprietary strain of B. Coagulans ​(GanedenBC or BC30).

Two recent randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies by Dolin (2009), they said, showed that BC30 supported digestive function by relieving abdominal pain and bloating, as well as reducing the number of daily bowel movements.

Meanwhile, Kalman et al (2009) conducted a trial of 61 adults with post-prandial intestinal gas, and found a statistically significant reduction in abdominal pain and a strong trend for improvement of abdominal swelling.

Strong survival potential

BC30 also holds promise for Crohn’s disease sufferers, where of 24 out of 35 patients completing a study, “there was a strong trend in decreasing the Crohn’s disease activity index and total number of daily stools”.

Laboratory tests also showed that BC30 has good survival potential within the stomach and small intestine, with potential to aid the digestion of milk protein, lactose and fructose.

Maathuis et al. (2010) found within a validated stimulated gut model that BC30 showed a high survival rate within milk (70%), despite minimal (10%) spore germination. Survival of the strain in the presence of lactose and fructose was lower (56-59%), although it helped digestion of the sugars, while amounts of digested milk protein available for consumption were higher with BC30.

Work on cultures also showed that BC30 could exert antimicrobial effects against C. difficile​, C. perfringens​ and Listeria ​(to varying degrees). For instance, in a culture system designed to favour C. difficile ​growth, the pathogen was repressed by the probiotic (Honda et al. in press).

"We also suggest that the (unique among probiotics) bimodal lifecycle of BC30 may lead to anti-microbial activity in distal ​[remote] regions of the gastrointestinal tract," ​said Keller et al, a factor the researchers said was important given the prevalence of gut disorders in the left side of the large intestine.

Boosts cytokine levels

Human trials also showed positive effects from BC30 upon the immune system, said the authors, where (Baron 2009) ten subjects were each given a dose of the probiotic for 30 days, before their blood (as against samples drawn and tested at the start of the trial) was exposed to antigens: reactivtiy of cytokines (signalling molecules present in the immune system) was then measured, with increases in various types found.

Developed by US firm Ganeden, BC30 is the probiotic ingredient used in its Digestive Advantage and Sustenex products, while the ingredient itself has been added to over 45 functional foods and beverages: including bread, nutrition bars, instant soup mix, hot tea, ice cream, and frozen yogurt.

Source: Food and Science Technlogy Bulletin ​(December 2010) 'Bacillus coagulans as a probiotic'​ doi: 10.1616/1476-2137.16015

Authors: Keller, S.F, McCartney, A, Gibson, G.

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