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Intestinal bacteria - microbiota. © INRA

Impact on gut microbiota of a fermented milk product containing probiotics revealed by new technology

Scientists from INRA and Danone Nutricia Research have shown the effect of a fermented milk product containing probiotics on the gut microbiota, using a novel high resolution bioinformatics tool. The product affected certain gut bacteria without changing the global composition of the microbial community. These findings, published in Scientific Reports on 11 September 2014, open new perspectives to understand the effects of probiotics on our health.

Updated on 09/12/2014
Published on 09/11/2014

Fermented foods, and especially yoghurts, contain large amounts of live bacteria. We have been consuming them since the Neolithic Era (12,000 years ago), but our understanding of their impact on the digestive tract remains limited. Until recently, technological barriers prevented from studying in detail the billions of bacteria living in our gut. The European consortium MetaHIT, coordinated by INRA, has made major breakthroughs in this field that expanded the scientific knowledge on the role of this microbiota and resulted in the discovery of many bacterial species hitherto unknown.

Building on these new technologies, teams from INRA and Danone Nutricia Research succeeded in analyzing for the first time with great accuracy the effects of consuming a fermented milk product containing probiotics such asBifidobacterium lactis,on gut bacteria.“In this study, we studied the effect of the product on individuals afflicted with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a pathology affecting 20% of the population in industrialized countries” says Dusko Ehrlich who led the research at INRA.

Researchers observed that, upon intake of this fermented milk product comprised of probiotics, the abundance of certain bacteria naturally producing butyrate increased, though the global composition of the flora remained unchanged. Butyrate is known for its beneficial effects on gut health. Previous studies have shown a decrease in butyrate producing bacteria in IBS individuals. Moreover, the scientists observed a decrease of Bilophila wadsworthia bacteria, which is thought to be involved in the development of intestinal diseases.

This pilot study on 28 individuals leads to relevant and reliable scientific hypotheses relating health and the consumption of fermented milk products containing probiotics. It also shows the potential in using new tools to analyze existing interactions between gut microbiota and probiotics.“Up until now, it was impossible to study the impact of probiotics on gut microbiota at a bacterial species level; from now on we will have a much more detailed view of the dynamics of this ecosystem” says Dusko Ehrlich.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are "live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host, beyond the common nutritional effects" (FAO/WHO, 2001). They facilitate fiber digestion, boost the immune system and prevent or treat diarrhea. Today, dozens of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are marketed in certain foods such as yoghurts or fermented milk products.

Patrick Veiga, Nicolas Pons, Anurag Agrawal, Raish Oozeer, Denis Guyonnet, Rémi Brazeilles, Jean-Michel Faurie, Johan E. T. van Hylckama Vlieg, Lesley A. Houghton, Peter J. Whorwell, S. Dusko Ehrlich & Sean P. Kennedy. Changes of the human gut microbiome induced by a fermented milk product. Scientific Reports, 11 September 2014. DOI: 10.1038/srep06328

Scientific contact(s):

Press Relations:
INRA News Office (+33 1 42 75 91 69)
Associated Division(s):
Microbiology and the Food Chain
Associated Centre(s):

About Danone Nutricia Research

Danone Nutricia Research combines the research and innovation of Danone, through 1500 researchers and developers split in 6 research centers and 55 R&D branches. They build bridges between science and nutrition, while adapting to different cultural and eating habits all over the world and engaging in the improvement of nutritional quality and environmental sustainability.