March 2019 - The demand for functional foods that contain health-benefiting compounds
such as Omega‑3s and probiotics continues to grow. Dr. Claude Champagne, a research
scientist at the Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre (RDC), is a world
leader in probiotics research. A number of his scientific advances have been transferred
to Canadian food companies.
Since the 1990s, Dr. Champagne has been working to better understand the characteristics
of various strains of probiotics and to uncover effective methods for incorporating
them into foods while limiting impacts on the survival rate of these beneficial
bacteria and on the flavour of enriched foods.
Which is the right probiotic?
There are dozens of probiotic strains, each with its own properties and weaknesses.
Some strains can multiply during fermentation, a discovery made by Dr. Champagne
and put to the test by the Canadian Space Agency. On the menu for astronauts: fermented
probiotics in milk or soy beverage containing 10 billion bacteria per serving.
Other strains are better able to withstand storage, with some even able to tolerate
up to 30 days in refrigerated storage conditions. This was a key technological advance
for Lassonde Industries, a leading food products company, which was looking to enrich
its fruit juices and maintain a minimum of 1 billion probiotic bacteria until the
juices' expiration date, in accordance with the regulations.
How can probiotics be protected?
The type of food has an impact on the survival of probiotics. Simulations of human
digestion using the
IViDiS, an artificial digestive system developed at the Saint-Hyacinthe
RDC, demonstrated that milk proteins protect probiotics as they move through the
acidic environment of the stomach and allow them to survive until they reach the
The timing of probiotic incorporation is another factor to consider. For cheddar
cheese, it is best to add the probiotic strains to the milk before the cheddaring
and salting process, but for ice cream, it is better to add them to the soft ice
cream directly rather than to the mixture before freezing.
In yogurt, to avoid the negative interactions that can occur between lactic acid
bacteria and probiotic bacteria, probiotics need to be matched with compatible starter
cultures or used in an environment that is enriched to promote probiotic growth.
Probiotics can be better protected during manufacturing, freezing or storage by
means of encapsulation or microencapsulation. When microencapsulated cultures are
added to small bits of chocolate, the stability of the cultures in ice cream is
10 times greater.
Where does flavour fit in?
Probiotic-enriched products have to taste good in order for Canadian consumers to
enjoy them and find them appealing. To prevent probiotics from changing the flavour
of a food, each serving should generally contain no more than 10 billion probiotic
A number of probiotic-enriched products are already available on grocery store shelves
and are meeting consumer expectations in terms of managing digestive health, thanks
in part to the science conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
- Some strains when combined in a beverage promote fermentation and allow the number
of probiotic bacteria to increase. Other strains are able to withstand refrigerated
storage conditions for longer periods.
- It is possible to select the best time for adding probiotics to a food, to combine
probiotics with compatible starter cultures or dairy products, and to protect probiotics
by means of encapsulation or microencapsulation.
- Above 10 billion probiotic bacteria per serving, the flavour of a food may be altered.