What are Live Cultures?
Live cultures are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. They can be found in yoghurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products.
live cultures should not be confused with prebiotics (plant fibres). Plant fibres are typically complex carbohydrates (such as inulin and other fructooligosaccharides), microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract use plant fibres as a metabolic fuel (1). Commercial products containing both plant fibres and live good bacteria organisms are often called “synbiotics.” In addition, products containing dead microorganisms and those made by microorganisms (such as proteins, polysaccharides, nucleotides, and peptides) are, by definition, not live cultures.
Although people often think of bacteria and other microorganisms as harmful “germs,” many are actually helpful. Some bacteria help digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, or produce vitamins. Many of the microorganisms in live culture products are the same as or similar to microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies.
Why should I take live cultures?
Your gut is host to tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1,000 different species of known bacteria. More than 100 trillion symbiotic microorganisms live on and within human beings and play an important role in human health and disease. The human microbiota, especially the gut microbiota, has even been considered to be an “essential organ” (2).
A variety of environmental factors can affect intestinal microbial imbalance, which has a close relationship with human health and disease (3). The composition of the gut microbiota is influenced by the use of antibiotics and by the lifestyle of the human host, including exercise, diet, and hygiene preferences (3).
Healthy microbiota can have a direct effect on a person’s overall health and well-being. The microbiota has the potential to increase energy extraction from food (10), increase nutrient harvest (11,12), and alter appetite signalling (13) (14). In addition, the human microbiota also provides a physical barrier, protecting its host against foreign pathogens through competitive exclusion and the production of antimicrobial substances (15)(16).
There is also research to suggest an imbalance microbiota can contribute towards Obesity (4)(5), Type 2 diabetes (6), Bacterial Vaginosis (7), Infectious diseases (8) and Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (9) among many other diseases, disorders and even psychiatric diseases (3).
What to consider when choosing a live culture product?
1. Bacteria survivability through shelf life and digestion
How are the bacteria treated/protected in order to survive the entire shelf life, digestion, stomach acid etc and reach the gut alive?
live good bacteria are live cultures living micro-organisms, for the good bacteria to have any effect they must survive throughout the shelf life as well as the digestion journey. (31)
“For a probiotic to have any effect, the bacteria need to withstand the acidic environment in the stomach to reach the gut in sufficient quantities to start colonising the area. I think knowing how much active ingredient you are getting even if you are taking the same product over time is difficult, and we don’t really have good data at this time,” – Dr Dalal – assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. (17)
An essential attribute for a live culture product is to provide a scientifically proven reason/technology to ensure the bacteria can and will reach the gut alive. In addition, the bacteria will require nutrition upon arrival to the microbiota (prebiotic).
A study was conducted across some commercial brands the results of which established the proportions of bacteria that survive gastric transit could be less than expected from plate-count analysis and potentially less than would be necessary for survival during the next stage of transit through the small intestine, so potentially compromising functionality (31).
Many products rely on freeze-drying methods, enteric coatings or microencapsulation to improve the survivability of the bacteria through the digestion process, but these methods use of polymers and polyphenols which are not the nicest things to be ingesting. Furthermore, there has not been any sufficient evidence to suggest any viable increase to any bacteria strains that are known not to survive the digestion process.
The survivability of three live bacteria strains in uncoated beads, coated beads, and as free cells (unencapsulated) was conducted in 0.6% bile salt solution and simulated gastric juice (pH 1.55) followed by incubation in simulated intestinal juice with and without 0.6% bile salt. Chitosan-coated alginate beads provided the best protection for L. acidophilus and L. casei in all treatments. However, B. bifidum did not survive the acidic conditions of gastric juice even when encapsulated in coated beads (18).
When selecting the right live cultures you need to identify the guaranteed viable count. Most live cultures only guarantee the viable count up to the end of the shelf life; to guarantee this some live culture products need to be stored in the fridge to maintain their viable count, but what about reaching the gut? There are not many products if any, available to guarantee live bacteria count delivered to the gut.
2. No. of different strains and their function – how many different types of bacteria are available in the product.
This is where things can get a little tricky. With the endless number of strains and the 1000s of research papers to sieve through which are the best strains to go for?
Some products only use bacteria that are proven to survive the digestion process this is good as it means the bacteria will reach your gut alive, but at the same time, it limits the strains that can be used. Other products source their bacteria strains from plants, this is great as this means they are vegan-friendly; the strains sourced from plants are not really ideal as some of the strains may not be suitable to occupy the gut.
Simply look for products that utilise bacterial strains that are found and belong in the microbiota and are protected enough that the selection of bacteria strains is not limited.
Some bacterial strains have been found to have the following effects: –
- Lactococcus Lactis, proven to fight off the harmful salmonella species of bacteria and also have an anti-inflammatory effect in the bowel. (19)(20)
- Bifidobacterium Longum, which is one of the earliest to colonise our bowels when we are infants. It is considered a staple species in a healthy microbiome. (21)
- Bifidobacterium Breve is another healthy microbiome staple and plays a key role in protecting our bowel from being colonised by harmful bacteria. (22) (23)
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a species of bacteria that produce chemicals that kill off dangerous bacteria when they ferment our food. These bacteria are also helpful for digestion and treating diarrhoea. (24) (25)
- Lactobacillus Plantarum is an important species as it helps to suppress the growth of bacteria that produce gas and therefore cause unpleasant symptoms such as wind and bloating. It is also showing a lot of promise as a treatment for depression. (26)(27)
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus is shown to be important for the prevention and treatment of diarrhoea through its ability to kill off harmful bacteria. (28) (29)
- Streptococcus Thermophilus has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of diarrhoea that is caused by antibiotics. (30).
3. Quantity of each strain per dose – how much of each bacteria strain is there in each dose?
The legislation does not require each individual strain of bacteria to be labelled in terms of their quantity; manufacturers tend to list the bacteria and provide a total count (example below).
Lactobacillus plantarum 5 Billion CFU
This can be misleading as you do not know exactly how much of each strain is present; for example, when suffering from diarrhoea you may want to consume more Lactobacillus Rhamnosus for the ability it has displayed to kill off harmful bacteria. (28) (29) Many products simply do not display how much of each strain it contains. You may consider taking a one strain product, by taking this route inevitably other strains required to help improve your microbiome can be missed.
4. Other useful ingredients prebiotic fibres and vitamins/minerals
It is always great to get value for your money so you should have a look at what other benefits you can get from the live culture products.
One essential ingredient is plant fibres. This can be in many forms. Plant fibres, in essence, is nutrition for the bacteria to feed off when they arrive in your gut to proliferate effectively (31). Products containing both plant fibre and live cultures can also be called ‘synbiotics’.
Some products include vitamins and/or minerals it’s recommended to see what’s available for added benefits. If by consuming live cultures your aim is to achieve and stronger immune system it’s worth looking for a live cultur that contains vitamin C. Vitamin C is known to contribute to the normal function of the immune system.
5. Form Capsule/liquid/powders etc – which form suits you and your lifestyle?
This can be based on personal preference/lifestyle choice. There are some products that claim liquid-based products are better to deliver live bacteria to the gut by reducing the effects of digestion; not due to added protection. Most liquid products also require cold storage in the fridge and have a shorter shelf life.
Capsules/tablets, on the other hand, offer an easy way to consume live culture on a daily basis or even on the go as there are a vast number of live culture capsule/tablets available that are stable enough for fridge free storage.
When comparing Kinerva Daily Vitality to other products available on the market the difference becomes quite evident.
- First and foremost, Kinerva direct live cultures guarantee 100% of the viable count to reach the gut microbiota and not just the shelf life or to the point of packaging.
- Kinerva Dual Coating technology consists of a Protein & Polysaccharide coating. This pH-adapted coating significantly increases the survivability of live good bacteria vulnerable to gastric acid and bile salt in the gastrointestinal tract (32).
- Kinerva is explicit about the viable count of each bacterial strain giving you the clearest labelling in comparison to any of the competitive products.
- The bacterial strains chosen for Kinerva Daily vitality are strains that belong in the gut. Some competitive products have either plant-sourced products or use strains that have the ability to survive the digestion journey. All this gives Kinerva Daily vitality the ability to make use of the strains that are the most effective in achieving positive results.
- 5 Billion CFU per capsule has been selected as the optimal number of bacteria as Kinerva Daily Vitality guarantees them all to be delivered to your gut alive and well with enough prebiotic to proliferate. 5 billion live good bacteria are sufficient to make a slow and steady change to the microbiome. In comparison, the competitor products have to boost up the numbers up to 50 billion in an aim to get a result as there is no guarantee the bacteria will reach the gut alive.
Overall Kinerva Daily Vitality is the most versatile product providing the best protection to live cultures, with added vitamin C to contribute to the normal function of the immune system and 146mg of FOS (prebiotic fibre). Most importantly the double-coating layers of proteins and polysaccharides ensure an increase in the levels of bacteria, indicating that the layers fulfil their function to protect the bacteria from the digestive action in the GI tract (32).
Click here to see Kinerva Daily Vitality
Image Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash
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