Probiotic-Foods blog

Probiotic-Foods blog

Accepting that probiotics deliver health benefits; a key factor in the development of probiotic food products.

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 06/12/12

By definition, a probiotic product must confer a health benefit to the consumer. Before embarking upon any market research or concept design, this principle should be very clear to anyone attempting to develop a probiotic food product.

      A most dubious move would be to add a probiotic organism to a food product simply as a knee-jerk marketing strategy, without focus on the potential health benefit to be delivered to consumers. This mistake has been unfortunately commonplace and sooner or later leads to costly failure.

      Non-performing pseudo-probiotic products not only produce financial losses, but also damage the image of the company, and even worse, foment scepticism among consumers regarding probiotics, science and the food industry.

      Even if the technical team succeeds in creating a product in which the dose of viable organisms remains acceptable until the “best before” date, the product still may not impart any noticeable benefit to consumers. This problem may stem from any of several different mistakes during the development process, mistakes that are generally avoided simply by getting the team to agree on and understand the sought health benefit.

       Just as important as recognizing the capability of probiotics to confer certain benefits, is not overstating these benefits. The health benefits of probiotics are generally subtle. They contribute to maintaining health through a variety of mechanisms, a concept that is difficult to convey to consumers. Overstating the benefits of probiotics will lead to consumer disappointment.

Excerpt from the article:

Macouzet, M (2012). Critical aspects of developing novel food products with probiotics. Probiotic Intelligentsia 1(1):1-12

Determinación del efecto benéfico; primer aspecto a considerar.

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 05/22/12

La determinación del efecto benéfico a explotar es uno de los aspectos críticos del desarrollo de alimentos probióticos, según se describe en el nuevo artículo de Probiotic Intelligentsia en español.

Es cierto que son muchos los efectos saludables que se atribuyen a los probióticos, algunos de ellos están bien documentados y respaldados por estudios científicos confiables, mientras que otros no tienen aun una sólida base científica. Entonces, es la responsabilidad de la compañía de elegir solamente aquellos efectos que estén bien fundamentados con modos de acción claros y estudios clínicos convincentes.

Obviamente, la selección de las propiedades benéficas dependerá de la cultura, objetivos y ventajas competitivas de cada empresa. Las grandes corporaciones optan generalmente por aquellos beneficios que puedan eventualmente llevar sus productos al mercado de masas. En el caso de compañías más pequeñas, es recomendable de enfocarse a nichos de mercado a través de categorías de productos más especializadas.

Los productos susceptibles de alcanzar el mercado de masas serían aquellos que reflejen un sentimiento de bienestar, lo cual es algo valorado por la mayoría de los consumidores. Ejemplos de plataformas de mercado basadas en el mensaje de bienestar son: el mantenimiento de la salud digestiva, la modulación del sistema inmunitario y la profilaxis bucal y dental. Otra clase de beneficios para la salud son aquellos que atacan ciertas patologías como la alta presión arterial, alto nivel de colesterol en sangre, síndrome del intestino irritable, así como la diarrea causada por antibióticos o por la intolerancia a la lactosa. Cada uno de estos beneficios es buscado por una proporción relativamente pequeña de los consumidores, quienes, sin embargo, están dispuestos a pagar un alto precio para obtener el beneficio prometido.

Pulque, the most potent probiotic food in history?

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 04/06/12

We struggle at developing new probiotic food products but they are never quite as potent as those consumed by Aztecs thousands of years ago.

Pulque is an ancient sour and viscous drink original from central Mexico, which is probably the food product with the highest dose and variety of potential probiotic microorganisms.

This drink is prepared by fermentation of the maguey plant juice (aguamiel), which is rich in inulin soluble fiber, a demonstrated prebiotic that favors the development of potential probiotics during fermentation. The most interesting aspect, however, is the traditional starter culture, which was composed of a young child’s feces contained in a textile bag. Fortunately or not, this practice was supposedly abolished. Although you might find it disgusting, do you realize how rich this inoculum is in probiotic cultures? Many of those cultures and their health effects are still to be discovered, but Aztecs were already taking advantage of it.

No wonder why pulque has traditionally been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, loss of appetite, general weakness and certain renal conditions, apart from being recommended as a lactation stimulant. Interestingly, pulque drinkers were generally not touched by the cholera epidemics in the 19th century. Moreover, its nutrition potential is also well recognized; as certain assiduous pulque consumers are known to feed almost exclusively on this drink.

If you are brave enough to try pulque next time you go to Mexico, you might have a hard time finding it, as beer is in the way of replacing the already incipient demand for this ancient drink. If you find only canned pulque, you can try its taste, but you should know that all its “magic” would have already been taken away during the canning process.

What do you think about pulque? Would you try it?

Recommended articles:

Characterization of bacterial diversity in Pulque, a traditional Mexican alcoholic fermented beverage, as determined by 16S rDNA analysis.

Karat, Pulque, and Gac: Three Shining Stars in the Traditional Food Galaxy.

Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana

Could probiotics cause a gastrointestinal ecology disaster?

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 03/28/12

When a curious ecologically responsible student asked me that question, I answered confidently:   “the conditions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are too harsh for probiotics, so they don’t stay around for long enough to modify the microbial ecology irreversibly. After probiotics accomplish their intended function and the individual stops consuming them, they get gradually washed out and the GI microbiota equilibrium is rapidly restored”

While I stick to my answer in the case of the currently available probiotics, I wonder if a new generation of probiotics will eventually pose that risk. New probiotic screening methods facilitate the selection of microbial strains with the desired profile. Accordingly, new probiotics will be each time more resistant and will have “enhanced functions”.  We know safety of new probiotics has to be demonstrated but, what if in the long term a “safe super strain” dominates over certain native species leading to their exclusion?

Examples of ecological disasters caused by the introduction of foreign species into new ecosystems are abundant and our ignorance about the GI microbiome is huge, so… should we be afraid of probiotics? Definitely not, just keep in mind this matter for future developments and probiotic safety assessments. I wouldn’t like to meet the student in the future and face the embarrassing comment: “I told you”.

What do you think?

Les aliments probiotiques ne disparetront pas!

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 03/19/12

 « Les aliments probiotiques pourraient disparaitre », c’est le titre qui a été utilisé pour attirer les regards sur un article apparu dans un site internet belge le 12 février dernier, toutefois, cette information est loin d’être exacte.

C’est vrai que l’industrie des probiotiques fait face à certains désagréments en raison qu’aucune allégation santé n’a été autorisée, à ce jour, par l'Autorité européenne de sécurité des aliments (EFSA), cependant, cela ne veut pas dire que l’industrie pourrait disparaitre, mais simplement que, pour le moment, elle devrait avoir recours à d’autres moyens de communiquer avec les consommateurs.

La commotion que l’on voit actuellement dans l’industrie vient du fait que le mot probiotique est perçu comme étant une allégation santé, car sa définition indique que les probiotiques confèrent des effets santé aux consommateurs.  Étant donné que les dossiers de recherches cliniques fournies à l’EFSA n’ont toujours pas satisfait les critères stricts pour autoriser une allégation santé, le mot probiotique devrait éventuellement être retiré des étiquettes à moins que la législation soit amendée.

Le potentiel des probiotiques pour produire plusieurs des effets santé que leurs sont attribués est clair, ce qui peut être expliqué par des mécanismes biochimiques. Le problème est la difficulté de mesurer ces effets sur l’organisme, spécialement lorsqu’un individu est sain, car cela devient un vrai casse-tête pour essayer de démontrer que les probiotiques l'aident à garder sa santé.

On se demande si cette sorte de notes ne nuit pas davantage à l’industrie des probiotiques que l’inflexibilité des règlements d’attribution d’allégations santé qui, à la fin, ne fera que bénéficier ceux qui font des efforts pour préparer de vrais produits probiotiques. Qu’en pensez-vous?

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Consumer Reliance Program (CRP)
​A legitimate and powerful approach to communicating the health benefits of probiotic foods to consumers. It can be adoped even in the absence of an approved health claim. 
Exemples de situations qui affectent l’équilibre du microbiote intestinal du chien : l’anxiété, le confinement, le changement de nourriture, la prise d’antibiotiques, l’exercice extrême et le sevrage. 
Ref.
Macouzet (2015). Nourriture probiotique pour chiens. Probiotic Intelligentsia en français 4(1):14-27
Critical aspects of developing novel food products with probiotics. 
Probiotic Intelligentsia, 1(1):2012