The most common carriers of probiotics at this time are milk and dairy products. Other products being used are meat and fish products, table olives, cereal- and soy-based products, edible spreads, and plant seed extracts.
Artichokes* as functional foods** were tested in this study to serve as a carrier for probiotics Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei. They were tested for their ability to keep the probiotics alive for 90 days and to promote their colonization of the human gut. To survive, probiotics must withstand the manufacturing process and pass through various pH changes of the human digestive system. Artichokes contain sugars which promote the survival of probiotics.
The artichokes are preserved in a brine containing citric acid to which probiotics were added. These were stored for 3 months and tested for survival of the probiotic bacteria. After the products were eaten by healthy volunteers, their fecal samples were tested for the presence of the probiotics. Samples of artichokes with bacteria were tested with stomach and intestinal juices. The artichokes and probiotics survived well.
Parallel studies done on olives and milk showed good survival of the probiotics. This could be due to the high fat content of those foods. The good survival rate on artichokes could partly be due to the high inulin content of artichokes. Inulin*** is a good carbohydrate for probiotic survival.
CONCLUSION: This study shows that artichokes are good functional foods for carrying probiotics into the human body. The bacteria attach to the artichokes and survive the passage through the digestive system.
NOTES: *Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a thistle which has been cultivated as a food.
**Functional foods serve specific nutritional needs, such as carrying probiotics in this case. While there is no standard definition of the term, these foods may have nutritional elements added to promote health and prevent disease.
***Inulin is often used as a prebiotic or food for probiotics.
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