Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are two microorganisms that can metabolize lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. These two bacteria have also demonstrated effectiveness in a number of health-related applications and are referred to as friendly bacteria or probiotics. Interest in probiotics is inspiring researchers to delve into the potential for these bacteria to aid in the treatment of disorders such as lactose intolerance and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, according to USProbiotics.org. Probiotics are found in a number of foods.
Both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are present in certain brands of yogurt. The health benefits of yogurt first drew attention from Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff in the early 20th century. Metchnikoff observed a tendency towards health and longevity in Bulgarian people whose diet was high in yogurt and even named a strain of probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus, after those avid Bulgarian yogurt consumers.
Infant formulas containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium were studied for their effects on non-breastfed infants at child care centers in Israel in 2002. The study was published in the journal "Pediatrics" in January 2005. According to Dr. Zvi Weizman of the Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit of the Soroka Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel, infants who were fed formulas containing lactobacillus or bifidobacterium experienced less frequent and shorter episodes of diarrhea.
Probiotic organisms are sometimes added to cheese, and a study published in the December 2010 issue of the “International Journal of Food Microbiology” compared the properties of lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and third probiotic called propionibacterium when consumed as yogurt, capsules or cheese. The study, conducted by Maija Saxelin of Valio Ltd. of Finland, analyzed fecal content after consumption of these products and found that fecal lactobacillus counts were high regardless of the food source, while bifidobacterium and propionibacterium fecal counts were lower when the subject had consumed them as cheese. As a result, Saxelin concluded that cheese may not be the best method for distributing probiotics to the digestive tract.
Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium can be added to soy products, so those who abstain from milk can consume them as well. Manufacturers are supplementing soy milk, soy yogurt and other products with both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in order to capitalize on current interest in the benefits of probiotics. Read the labels to be sure your products contain the probiotics that you seek.