Consumption of yoghurt and other fermented dairy products prepared with Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, and Bifidobacteria strains has increased all over the world in recent years. It is considered by both the general public and expert nutritionalist that they provide humans with major benefits: protection from infection of intestinal pathogen microorganisms,123 stimulation of the immune system,124 as well as better digestion, and absorption of lactose and minerals,125 prevention of traveler's diarrhea,126 (Alm, 1991), reduction of diarrhea and rotavirus infection in infants,127 prevention of constipation in elderly people,126 contribution to a faster recolonization of the intestinal microflora after administration of antibiotics,128-131 improvement in lactose intolerance,132 reduction of cholesterol level in the blood,133 stimulation of the immune system,134 and improvement in defense against cancer.135 It has been demonstrated that Lactobacillus population in the human gastrointestinal tract is increased by Spirulina consumption. This has the potential to improve: food digestion and absorption improvement, intestinal protection against bacterial infections and immune system stimulation.92,136 Immune system modulation is due to interference on production and NK cytotoxicity.137 Because the human gut microbiota can play a major role in health, there is currently some interest in functional food ingredients that may stimulate endogenous or exogenous beneficial lactic acid bacteria (LAB).138 It was established that biomass from S. platensis increased Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis growth.87
Spirulina sp. among cyanobacteria is the best known genus because of its nutritional value. It contains 18 of the 20 known aminoacids; high-quality proteins; more calcium than milk; more vitamin B12 than cow liver; vitamins A, B2, B6, E, H, and K, and all essential minerals, trace elements, and enzymes.89 Spirulina is one of the richest sources of iron among various organic health supplements. The fatty acid composition of Spirulina is characterized by high levels of the m-6 series. Deficiency in linolenic acid is also associated with vision139 and nervous system defects, regulation of blood pressure, cholesterol synthesis, infammation, and cell proliferation.
De Caire et al. (2000)140studied the effect of a natural additive, dry biomass from S. platensis, on the growth of LAB in milk. They showed that the addition of dry S. platensis to milk (6 mg/mL) stimulated growth of Lactococcus lactis by 27%. Recently, it was observed that growth of LAB in synthetic media was promoted by extracellular products of S. platensis.141 Similarly, Varga et al. (2002)142 studied the influence of a S. platensis biomass on the Microflora of Fermented acidophilusbifidus-thermophilus (ABT) Milks during storage (R1). In the study, Spirulina-enriched and control (plain) fermented ABT milks were produced using a fast fermentation starter culture (ABT-4) as the source of Lactobacillus acidophilus (A), bifidobacteria (B), and Streptococcus thermophilus (T). As for the cyanobacterial product, the S. platen-sis biomass was added to the process milk. Results showed that the counts of the starter organisms were satisfactory during the entire storage period at both temperatures applied in this research. The S. platensis biomass had a beneficial effect on the survival of ABT starter bacteria regardless of storage temperature. Postacidification was observed at 15°C, whereas pH remained stable during refrigerated storage at 4°C. Bifidobacteria were highly susceptible to acid injury and their counts fell more sharply than did those of lactobacilli and streptococci; however, the addition of Spirulina biomass was of beneficial effect on their viability.142
Varga et al. (1999a)143 investigated that effect of a dried S. platensis cyanobacterial biomass enriched with iodine, zinc, and selenium on the growth and acid production of mixed starter cultures most commonly used for the manufacture of fermented dairy products. Five combinations of the single strains of Streptococcus salivarius subsp, thermophilus CH-1, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp, bulgaricus CH-2, Lactobacillus acidophilus La-5, and Bifidobacterium bifidum Bb-12 were tested. The stimulation of L. bulgaricus and L. acidophilus by the cyanobacterial biomass reduced the time needed for the manufacture of products containing lactobacilli considerably. The effect of a dried S. platensis cyanobacterial biomass enriched with trace elements on the rate of acid development by pure cultures of Streptococcus salivarius subsp.
hemophilus CH-I, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus CH-2, L. acidophilus La-5 and Bifidobacterium bifidum Bb-12 was increased in milk. The S. platensis biomass that was rich in trace elements, vitamins, sulfur-containing amino acids, and unsaturated fatty acids also had a highly beneficial effect on the nutritional value of milk, thus providing a new opportunity for manufacture of functional dairy products.144
The S. platensis biomass stimulated the rod-shaped starter bacteria to a greater extent than the coccus-shaped one, and being rich in trace elements, vitamins, sulfur-containing amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids, it also had a beneficial effect on the nutritional value of cow's milk.
Nowadays, when the dairy industry is supplementing milk with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, it would be of interest to consider the possibility of adding Spirulina biomass, as a natural product, to fermented milk to induce a faster production of LAB and increase the number of viable cells in the product and in the gut.140
The abundance of bioactive substances in S. platensis is of great importance from a nutritional point of view because in this way the cyanobacterial biomass provides a new opportunity for the manufacture of functional dairy foods.
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