Probiotic Cultures as Functional Foods

*Corresponding author: Maria Ursula Rosales-Hartshorn*


Rosales-Hartshorn MU. Probiotic cultures as functional foods. Adv Food Technol Nutr Sci Open J. 2015; 1(6): 124-129. doi: 10.17140/ AFTNSOJ-1-121


© 2015 Rosales-Hartshorn MU. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


FAO/WHO: Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization; FDA: Food and Drug Administration; AHRQ: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; AAD: Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea; IgE: Immunoglobulin E; DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid; GIT: Gastrointestinal Tract; EU: European Union; DSHEA: Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act; GRAS: Generally Recognized As Safe.


Many definitions have been proposed for probiotic cultures depending upon their mechanism of action. Probiotics can be defined as “a preparation of, or a product containing viable, defined microorganisms in sufficient numbers, which alter the microflora within a compartment of the host and thus exerting beneficial health effects in the host”.1 The definition proposed in the 2001 report of a Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Expert Consultation on “Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria” is probiotics are “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.2

According to Von Wright3 probiotics are “a mono- or mixed culture of live microorganisms which, when applied to man or animals, beneficially affect the host by improving the properties of indigenous microflora”. Although this concept was introduced in the early 20th century, studies relating to probiotics have continued until now to accurately determine the applicability of some well known strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to human health that affect glucose homeostasis and reduce inflammation,4 bioavailability of the cultures and secondary effects that they could cause inside the human body.

Innumerable products are available in the market that contain probiotic components and promote the presence of probiotic cultures in the food. Dairy products probably contain the greatest number of probiotic materials, and at the greatest level, that provide a peculiar flavor and an increase of shelf life.5

Many benefits have been promoted in relation to the use of probiotic cultures but there is not much information in literature relating to whether probiotics could cause any kind of damage in a short or long term in our bodies resulting from their consumption. For that reason, clinical testing of probiotics using protocols similar to the study of pharmaceutical agents has established a reasonable doubt relating to the veracity of the beneficial effects of some strains, but other studies have proven probiotic efficacy based upon more rational approaches that will lead to the right selection of the strains to foods to make them functional and with an added-value.3

The fact that most people consume probiotic products without discrimination constitutes a special concern because in most cases people use these food products for medicinal purposes. People who suffer from a wide variety of ailments find in probiotics to be a simple way to complement their clinical therapy without understanding how these materials may work. Furthermore, others consume them for preventive reasons.6 The interest in this area is growing as well as studies of the safety and quality criteria of probiotics for human use. These studies treat probiotics more or less like a drug, and the recommendations that are provided for the use of the probiotic are closely linked to regulations which must establish dose-response effect as a requirement to assure through them their effectiveness and safety action as a functional food.3