Back in November 2004, I wrote a column titled, "Icky, Yucky, Yum" about the virtues of ingesting beneficial bacteria as part of a healthy diet.
The basis of that column was my first introduction to probiotics and prebiotics and the secret world of the millions and millions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies.
Since then, probiotic-based products have run amok on health food store shelves and have even infiltrated mainstream branded foods such as Dannon's Activia yogurt products, which is marketed solely on its probiotic benefits.
Fermented Foods With Probiotics
The fact is that probiotics are also found naturally in fermented foods like yogurt with live cultures, kefir, miso and sauerkraut. Sauerkraut … who knew? Now, research is revealing that probiotics not only aid in digestion, but may also improve lactose digestion, help reduce cholesterol, colon cancer and yeast infections as well as boost the immune system.
Studies of children in day care settings whose diets were supplemented with probiotic products were less prone to fevers, common colds and stomach infection. Women – and their "lady-parts" (wink, wink, say-no-more) benefit as well, and that's the reason that Activia is targeted right, square between the eyes – at women.
Gosh, there are even studies that show that probiotics help relieve the side effects of chronic stress. Quick, order me a 50-gallon drum of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, please, and bring some Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 for my national sales manager, too.
Oh, probiotics help with dermatitis, obesity and osteoporosis, too. Is there anything these little buggers can't do?
Different Types of Bacteria
Researchers would like to point out at not all probiotics are the same. Procter & Gamble's Dr. Abeln cites in a recent article published by Nutraceuticals World, "Different strains of the same species (of bacteria) have been noted to differ in several ways, (including) the ability to colonize the GI tract…" So keep that in mind while you wolf down those tasty sauerkraut balls at your next cocktail party.
There's no doubt about it, demand and human consumption of naturally probiotic and probiotic-enhanced products are growing. An AC Nielsen report titled, "What's Hot Around the Globe: Insights on Growth in Food & Beverage Products," reports that drinkable yogurts was the fastest growing food and beverage category between 2005 and 2006. During that time, sales grew to $7.8 billion, or an 18 percent annual increase.
More Probiotic Products on the way
Ingesting live probiotic bacteria, as disgusting as it sounds, is critical. Of course, probiotic producers have been hard at work developing technologies that will enable live, stable and viable probiotic bacteria to be added to just about anything. Companies have already included them in products like juice, cookies, oral hygiene products and good old chocolate.
It's just a matter of time before you'll be vending a yummy Bifidus
Regularis bar – available with or without nuts!