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What are lactobacilli?

Lactobacillus is a genus of anaerobic, gram-positive bacteria that do not form spores. Lactobacilli metabolize carbohydrates to produce lactic acid, being the largest genus in the group of lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB).


How are lactobacilli classified?

Lactobacillus species can be divided into three groups depending on their metabolism.

The obligate homofermentative group - which ferment carbohydrates to produce lactic acid as the main by-product (eg L. acidophilus and L. salivarius)
The facultative heterofermentative group - which, under certain conditions or with certain substrates, ferments carbohydrates to produce lactic acid, ethanol/acetic acid and carbon dioxide as by-products (for example, L. casei and L. plantarum)
Obligate heterofermentative group - which always ferment carbohydrates to produce lactic acid, ethanol/acetic acid and carbon dioxide as by-products (eg L. reuteri and L. fermentum)

What is the importance of lactobacilli?

Lactobacilli colonize several areas of the human body, especially the digestive tract, including the oral cavity and the female genital tract. At the level of the digestive tract, they play a role in the digestion of certain food substrates, as well as protection against pathogens. Lactobacillus species possess qualities that are desirable from a commercial point of view, both in the health supplement industry and as tools in the food technology sector. The main uses of Lactobacilli are represented by the manufacture of fermented dairy products, meat or vegetables and dough products and are also widely used as probiotics.


What are the benefits and uses of lactobacilli?

  • Diarrhea in children caused by rotavirus
Children with rotaviral diarrhea who are treated with Lactobacillus seem to get over the diarrhea in a shorter time. Larger doses of lactobacillus are more effective than smaller ones. At least 10 billion colony-forming units must be used in the first 48 hours.
  • Hay fever
The administration of Lactobacillus paracasei can improve the quality of life in people with allergies who do not respond to antiallergic medication. Also, long-term administration of Lactobacillus johnsonii seems to improve symptoms of itchy eyes in children with year-round allergies.

  • Prevention of diarrhea caused by antibiotics
Research suggests that taking probiotic products containing only strains of Lactobacillus reduces the risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
Most research suggests that Lactobacillus products are beneficial for eczema relief. Lactobacillus GG appears to reduce eczema symptoms in infants who are allergic to cow's milk. Lactobacillus sakei, Lactobacillus plantarum and a combination of lyophilized Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri also seem to reduce the symptoms caused by eczema in children between the ages of 1 and 13.

  • A condition associated with an increased risk of developing allergic reactions (atopic disease)
Research suggests that taking Lactobacillus could prevent the development of atopic disease, but only certain strains of Lactobacillus seem to reduce the risk. A specific strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus GG, administered orally 2-4 weeks before birth and continued during the first three to six months of breastfeeding seems to prevent atopic diseases (asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema) in infants with a history of family history of this condition.
  • Treatment of vaginal infections caused by bacteria (bacterial vaginosis)
Clinical research shows that certain strains of Lactobacillus may help treat bacterial vaginosis when administered intravaginally.

  • Diarrhea
Administration of a specific strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus GG to infants and children aged between 1 and 36 months when they are hospitalized seems to reduce the risk of developing diarrhea.

  • Helicobacter pylori infection
Research suggests that taking Lactobacillus can help treat stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori when taken together with triple therapy.

  • High cholesterol
Eating yogurt or taking capsules containing the Lactobacillus L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 strain appears to reduce LDL cholesterol by about 9% to 12% in adults with high cholesterol. Also, administration of Lactobacillus plantarum appears to reduce total cholesterol levels by 14% in adults with high cholesterol.

  • Colic in babies
The administration of a specific product with Lactobacillus reuteri reduces the daily crying time in infants who are breastfed.

  • Relief of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms
Research shows that Lactobacillus acidophilus can also improve symptoms of IBS, such as bloating and stomach pain.

  • Oral inflammations from cancer treatment (oral mucositis)
Research suggests that the administration of Lactobacillus brevis from the first day of radiation/chemotherapy treatment until one week after reduces the number of patients who develop severe mouth ulcers.

  • Pulmonary infections
Children between the ages of 1 and 6 who attend kindergartens seem to suffer fewer and less serious lung infections when given milk containing Lactobacillus GG or a specific combination product containing both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
Research shows that administering a certain strain of Lactobacillus casei for 8 weeks reduces joint sensitivity and swelling in women with rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Reduces the frequency of traveler's diarrhea
Traveler's diarrhea is caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites to which the traveler has not been exposed before. Administration of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus GG appears to help prevent traveler's diarrhea.
  • Treatment of an intestinal disease called ulcerative colitis
Some research suggests that taking a certain combination product containing Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus might improve symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis. Continuous treatment for a year seems to help most patients. Administration of another specific product containing Lactobacillus plantarum 299v also appears to improve symptoms.

  • Are lactobacilli safe to eat?
Lactobacilli have been granted "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and "qualified presumption of safety" (QPS) status by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), certifying thus their safety.



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