What does the term “probiotic” mean?

The term “probiotic” refers to live microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on human health. The prefix “pro” is of Latin origin and means “in favour of”, while “bio” comes from the Greek “bios”, meaning “human life”. In other words, the term “probiotic” could be interpreted as “favourable for living organisms” (compare to “antibiotic”, where the suffix “anti” means “against”). When probiotics are included in foodstuffs, these are usually called “probiotic foods”.

What is the difference between “functional foods” and “probiotic foods”?

The term “functional foods” refers to ordinary foodstuffs that contain a natural ingredient with a well-documented effect on human health. Probiotic foods are special types of functional foods. These effects must be documented in clinical studies.

What are lactobacilli?

Lactobacilli are a group of bacteria that have been part of the human diet for millennia and are found naturally in such foods as yoghurt, cheese, olives, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and salami. Lactobacilli are also part of the normal intestinal bacterial flora in human beings and animals. In recent years, scientific studies have shown that lactobacilli can have a beneficial health effect. Accordingly, these bacteria are usually known as “probiotics”.

Are lactobacilli found in other products?

Lactobacilli occur naturally in foodstuffs produced by lactic fermentation, including yoghurt, cheese, olives, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and salami. Animal silage is also produced by lactic fermentation, often supplemented with various lactobacilli.

How were Probi’s lactobacilli found and how are they tested?

Probi and a group of scientists linked with the company have isolated an extremely large number of lactobacilli from human intestinal mucosa. These have been described using advanced genetic methods and are represented in Probi’s strain library. When a suitable bacterium is selected, it is put through a series of tests to evaluate such factors as its survival rate and ability to adhere to the intestinal mucosa. These tests are carried out in human beings or in animals (in vivo). It is also vital that the bacterium can survive in commercial products. The beneficial health effects of the bacterium are then studied in model systems. Finally, the bacterium is clinically tested in the product.

How can we be certain that Probi’s lactobacilli are actually active in the various products?

All the lactobacilli that Probi has isolated and documented have an extremely high survival rate in fermented products. This is essential so that they can function as probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. Independently and with its partners, Probi has developed an extensive and ongoing programme for testing the products. For example, the number of bacteria per gram is checked at various stages during storage.

Are there any risks associated with eating lactobacilli?

No scientific studies exist that show any risks whatsoever in conjunction with the consumption of lactobacilli. Lactic acid bacteria have been used for thousands of years for lactic fermentation of food. The method is a way of preserving foods and is used all over the world.

Lactobacillus plantarum 299v is said to establish itself on the intestinal mucosa. What advantages does this have?

It is only when the bacteria can establish themselves in the intestine and grow locally that they can affect the intestinal mucosa and intestinal flora. The bacterial film that the lactobacilli build up on the intestinal mucosa creates new bacteria that then spread out on the surface of the intestine and to the rest of the digestive system.