October 17, 2018

The low down on Probiotics

These days probiotics have become somewhat of a buzz word. From boosting immunity to improving digestion, probiotics have been touted as the “superhero” of the gut bacteria underworld. And yet, there’s a lot we still don’t know about probiotics because the research is just heating up.

Palmerston North is home to some of the world’s best probiotics, more than 300 strains are currently growing and multiplying at the Microbial Fermentation Unit (MFU), at Fonterra’s Research & Development Centre.

Basically, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts which are especially good for our gut health.  There are trillions of bacteria living in our digestive systems – this is our gut microbiome which helps us digest food and can protect us from invading bad bacteria. In fact, 70% of our immune system lies around our digestive tract.

Dr James Dekker, Programme Manager at Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre says we are reaching a cross roads when it comes to the study of gut bacteria.

“There is a lot of work going on right now into the gut brain axis, how does what happens in our gut affect our brain and vice versa? It’s an exciting area of research and dairy has a big role to play.”

“Everybody has a unique gut make up, so how one person reacts to a certain strain of probiotics could be quite different to how another person reacts. This can make studying the effects of these bacteria challenging.”

Mark Piper Director Group Research and Development says Fonterra has proven success when it comes to probiotics and is partnering with the Universities of Auckland and Otago to further understand their benefits.

“To date our LactoB 001 (DR20TM), has been clinically proven to help treat children’s eczema, and also given some indications that it can reduce post-natal depression by 50% and gestational diabetes by 68%.”

“Our commercialised probiotic strain BifidoB 019 (DR10TM) can be found commercially in Symbio yoghurt and Anmum. Given its proven benefits, many of our customers also use this strain in their food and beverage products.”

For Mark and his team the potential of probiotics has only just begun.

“For the past two decades our Fonterra scientists in Palmerston North have been growing all sorts of different strains of probiotics and the amazing thing is that with science, we can continually discover new potential health benefits from them.”

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