Four college students in Ho Chi Minh City have found a solution for increasing the chance of survival for probiotics – live beneficial microorganisms – in the conditions of heat during food processing and stomach acidity after consumption.
Probiotics, such as those in yogurt products, have scientifically proved benefits for human intestines partly by suppressing the activity of harmful microscopic organisms, said Hoang Thi Thuy Hang, a member of the undergraduate research group.
The team comes from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Food Industry, which has experimented with fortifying yogurt, ice cream, and mayonnaise with probiotics.
But the desired life forms can be destroyed by the acidic conditions in the stomach if taken orally, Hang added.
The group addressed the problem by surrounding prepared probiotics with tiny coatings made of a combination of complex molecules known as alginate and xanthan gum.
Alginate can serve as a thickener for jellies while xanthan gum is commonly used as a food additive.
The mixture forms a protective shell while transporting the microorganisms through the digestive environment of acids and liver-produced bile in the stomach.
By this way, probiotics can make their way safely to the small intestine, where the shell is broken and they can fight harmful microorganisms and help boost the immune system.
Next as probiotics have to be consumed somehow, the research students wanted to include them in bread, which is popular with Vietnamese people.
But the group faced another challenge: how to keep the organisms alive after bread has been baked.
Now they again added to the above mixture another type of polymeric molecule called maltodextrin as the substance can improve the resistance of the organisms to the heat from baking.
|Probiotic-fortified bread rolls are made by research students at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Food Industry in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Double-protected probiotics are placed in the core of bread before it comes to the oven.
Consumers may find the baked bread supplemented with the microorganisms equally palatable as it tastes no different from the standard bread.
The students are trying to increase the probiotics count included and preserve the bread taste within eight days.
The group took home the second prize of this year’s nationwide scientific research contest for college students Euréka.