The popularity of probiotic foods, such as yoghurts with aBc cultures appears to be increasing in Australia. In recent years, there has been substantial research investigating the health benefits of aBc cultures. It appears that there are several factors that can upset the balance of normal intestinal bacteria such as our diet, antibiotic therapy, the ageing process, stress as well as certain medication. Consumption of probiotic dairy foods such as yoghourts, which contain aBc cultures may help to maintain or re-establish the correct balance of friendly bacteria, an important factor in bowel health and normal bowel function. The areas of scientific research are extremely diverse and much of it is strain specific. However, the emerging evidence is very exciting and has highlighted a range of possible benefits of probiotics. Some of this ground breaking work has only been conducted in the laboratory, while other work has involved clinical trials.
The Benefits of Acidophilus Bifidus and Casei
Promoting and Maintaining Normal Bowel Function
There is evidence that probiotics can reduce the severity and duration of diarrhoea in adults and children and further research is being undertaken to see if these benefits are provided by all lactic acid bacteria. The research suggests that probiotics such as aBc cultures may also be useful in preventing constipation by normalising intestinal movement.
Inhibiting the Growth of Disease causing Bacteria
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidus, and casei ( aBc) cultures produce lactic acid which creates an environment too acidic for disease-causing bacteria to grow. This effect is seen in vitro and is one of the food preservation benefits of lactic acid producing bacteria. The inhibition of disease causing bacteria in the gut is due to factors such as strengthening the gut wall mucosa and even the production of bactericidal chemicals by these friendly bacteria. Emerging evidence also shows that some strains of acidophilus bacteria may play a role in oral and dental health.
Decreasing Cholesterol Absorption
It has been reported that probiotics, such as aBc cultures, may reduce cholesterol absorption, although this is a controversial area. The production of short chain fatty acids by these bacteria is probably one of the mechanisms that leads to the decreased absorption and the cholesterol binding to the bacteria cell wall could also result in cholesterol excretion. Properly designed studies are needed to determine whether probiotics assist in both reducing cholesterol absorption and increasing cholesterol excretion.
Supporting the Immune System
Bacteria that normally inhabit the bowel can have positive and negative effects on our immune system. The friendly bacteria (aBc) can help suppress bowel disorders, while the unfriendly bacteria can increase our chances of bowel problems. There is now accumulating evidence that aBc cultures in dairy foods such as yoghourts can improve the immune defence in the intestines, enhancing resistance to chemicals and inflammation. The immune benefits may go beyond the gut to improving the immune response to vaccines and allergens.
Article written by Karen Inge.