What are probiotics?
A Greek word ‘Pro-bios’ means ‘for life’, derived the word ‘Probiotic’. They are known to have role in maintaining intestinal microflora, strengthening host immune system and also maintaining health and wellbeing of the consumer.
The probiotic concept is evolved from the observation made by Ellie Metchnikoff in 1908. He proposed a theory that consumption of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) used in fermented dairy products is the reason of good health and long life of Bulgarian peasants. There are different definitions put forth to describe probiotics, but worldwide accepted definition is defined by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) in 2002. According to this definition, probiotics are ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.
Characteristics for the assessment as a probiotics-
To confer benefits of probiotics, strains are needed to establish into the host. For this purpose they are supposed to have following characteristics.
Many microbial cultures are proved of having probiotics activity and many of them are commercialised. Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, Lactococcus lactis, Bifidobacteria adolescentis, B. Breve, Bacillus cereus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae are few examples of probiotics organisms which are commercially available. These probiotics organisms can be categorized as lactic acid bacteria including Bifidobacterium and non lactic acid bacteria. Traditionally probiotics are consumed in the form fermented foods such as dairy products, some form of pickles etc. Other sources like capsules, powder forms and liquid formulations are also available for consumers.
Health benefits of probiotics-
In different clinical trials, many organisms have been proved of having probiotic characteristics and such organisms are commercially available for consumption. These probiotics are known to have health benefits and they maintain well being of consumers. As probiotic organisms lack the ability to colonize in the host, they are required to be taken regularly to maintain good microflora. The applications of probiotics ranges from maintenance of healthy gut microflora to treatment of diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers.Probiotic organisms confers health benefits by showing activities like immune modulation, anticarcinogenic and antitumor activity, lactose intolerance and food digestion, antimicrobial activity and cholesterol reduction.
There is a tremendous increase in the number of reports explaining new health related applications of probiotics and their mode of action in recent years. Such health promoting properties of probiotics highlight the importance of probiotics in our diet.