INTRO: Awareness of probiotics has found pride of place in the human psyche. With obesity concerns and an accelerated rate of heart disease, microbiology is at the forefront of a preventative diet -particularly as it pertains to weight management.  Allergy management is also high on the list of health considerations. Some experts even claim probiotics alleviate anxiety and depression too.

TEXT: Added value is always a key deliverable in this ever competitive economy driven by consumer awareness and demand for more product functionality. This spawned a search for new ingredients that promote health. To improve the quality of baked goods in particular with distinct nutritional properties, the identification of new raw materials, appropriate technologies, and specific microbial strains is essential.

Prebiotics promote beneficial criteria

Probiotics and prebiotics fall under the broader category of functional foods. For probiotics to exert beneficial effects they must have high viability in the product and have robust survival properties in the gut, which is their primary entry point and residing domain. To overcome this drawback the concept of pre-biotic was born and even symbiotic – the process of the two working together. Prebiotics promote the growth and proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.

Probiotics have been defined as live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Unlike probiotics, which are live organisms, prebiotics are components of food that are not otherwise easily digested and essentially feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. According to the website tandfononline.com, a prebiotic is “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific change both in the composition and or activity in the gastrointestinal micro flora that confers benefits.” (Gibson, 2004). The effect of a prebiotic is essentially indirect because it selectively feeds on one or a limited number of microorganisms, causing a selective modification of the host’s intestinal (especially colonic) microflora. It is not the prebiotic by itself, but the changes induced in the micro flora composition that is responsible for the effect, according to the site. So the function of a prebiotic is to stimulate certain indigenous bacteria such as Bifid bacteria and Lacto bacillis resident in the gut.

Types of prebiotics

Inulin is a natural storage carbohydrate presenting in more than 36,000 species of plants such as:

  • Herbs – chicory root, burdock root and dandelion root
  • Fruits – such as apples, bananas
  • Sweet vegetables – such as onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes
  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • Mother’s milk
  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a subgroup of inulin, is also a prebiotic and is often added to dairy foods and baked goods. It improves the taste and stimulates the growth of the beneficial bacteria, Bifidobacteria.

High temperatures can be detrimental

The ability of probiotic strains to survive conditions encountered in industrial manufacturing processes (e.g., temperature, pH, oxygen, etc.) is the main obstacle food manufacturers must overcome, according to an AACCnet publication, Probiotics in Bread and Baked Products: A New Product Category. For example, the heat involved in baking can result in significant losses in probiotic viability during the manufacture and storage of breads and baked goods.

Bakerpedia.com explains that bringing the practical inclusion of probiotics to the fore in the baking industry remains a challenge because of the high temperatures baked items are exposed to for lengthy periods of time, which are detrimental to probiotics. “For this reason probiotics are traditionally added to baked products after the baking process is complete. Generally, temperatures at 130 ̊F for less than one minute of a water activity of 0.4 or below will not harm a probiotic. In addition, an exception to the rule of probiotic harm by baking is probiotics containing spore-forming bacteria, which can survive the baking process.”

However, Probiotics in Bread and Baked Products: A New Product Category adds that “The heat stability of probiotic Bacillus subtillis R0179 has enabled it to be successfully added to bread and cookie formulations. Although probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus R0011 is heat sensitive, when sprayed on baked bread it showed good stability over the shelf life of the product. In the United States, Bacillus subtillis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus are eligible for structure/function claims, which can be used to market breads and baked products that contain them,” the article states.

A further breakdown:

  • Bacillus subtillus: Probiotic used in baked goods such as breads, muffins, and cakes.
  • Bacillus coagulus: Process friendly probiotic that can be utilised in all baked goods including cereals.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: Used in icing and fillings, bars, granola, yogurts.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: Used in baked goods such as wafers, crackers, etc.
  • Lactobacillus casei: Used in baked items, granola bars or wellness bars.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: Used in baked items, granola bars or wellness bars

According to Bakerpedia.com, probiotics integrated into chocolate are added into baked goods for flavouring as well as the nutritional value after baking. Such chocolate comes in forms such as bars or chips for bakers to utilise via coating, melting, enrobing, or blending as a main ingredient. Probiotics are most commonly found in baked goods such as bars, muffins, breads, crackers, cookies, cakes, or granola items targeting the health market, the site claims.

Bakerpedia.com advises bakers who wish to include additional health benefits to their products by using probiotics to communicate with their probiotic supplier to ensure the bacterial strand is in keeping with the health benefit desired in the final product. To reap the benefits of a probiotic, the probiotic must be protected and enter the gastrointestinal system in its entirety to activate. Benefits of probiotics are specific to the strand from which the probiotic originates.

Yogurt still a huge market

Perhaps best known among naturally forming probiotics is yoghurt which has its place in baking.  Yoghurt makes a reliable substitute for sour cream and is also a ready replacement in recipes that call for richness, creaminess, or added moisture. It is widely enjoyed as a popular probiotic snack on its own.

But at a recent convention it was revealed that, “the market for probiotic yoghurt in 20 key European Union countries will fall by 4.5% in the five years up to 2018, but the overall sector trend remains positive, Euromonitor International analyst Ewe Hudson told a packed Probiota congress in Amsterdam in February. (www.nutraingredients.com)

The impact of the December 2012 ban on using the terms ‘probiotics’ and ‘prebiotics’ as marketing tools in the EU, coupled with the global economic recession, were cited as the major reasons for the decline, the website stated.

“Overall probiotics still resonate with consumers,” Hudson said, noting that probiotics accounted for just over a third of the €60bn global yoghurt market.

Adding to this sentiment, the president and founder of the Healthy Marketing Team, Peter Wennstrom, said the market had enough credible science and consumer support to move ahead without approved health claims if it invested in education campaigns.

“Consumers are turning their backs on health claims,” Wennstrom said at the conference.

He stressed that active consumer education and smart communication that connected with consumers was far more effective than ‘old school’ health claim strategies.

“One of the conclusions from observing the probiotic and prebiotic categories as well as other health related categories is the need to invest in education before claims are made in order to grow category profitably. This means that you must educate consumers about your category before you educate them about your brand. This is unfortunately forgotten by a claims-focused industry that wants proprietary claims.”

Wennstrom said the sector had a powerful basis to work from – the concept of live active bacteria.

IN A BOX

Like probiotics, prebiotics have been attributed with a comprehensive list of health benefits:

* Heart Health

Prebiotics have been shown to moderate cholesterol and triglyceride levels – both indicators of heart disease. One study shows that inulin can reduce artherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries by 30%.

As heart disease becomes more widespread among both men and women, new approaches to treatment and prevention are proving to be effective and have the added benefit of being free of side-effects.

• Immunity

In preliminary research, prebiotics boost white blood cells and killer T-cells, and may even improve the body’s response to vaccinations.

Children in one test group who ate yogurt containing inulin had fewer daycare absences, fewer doctor visits and took fewer antibiotics.

• Chronic illness and digestion

Because prebiotics act in the intestines, they have a profound effect on pathogens and harmful bacteria that can cause disease. Prebiotics are used to treat irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and may also prove useful in treating cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Source: University of North Dakota Dining Services