Raise a toast to gut health

29 June 2017 | Research
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Every 100ml of the speciality beer contains one billion units of live probiotics

Gut health and beer might seem like unlikely bedfellows, but beer lovers may soon be able to consume their favourite beverage and improve the health of their guts at the same time. A team of NUS researchers has created a novel probiotic sour beer that incorporates a probiotic strain — Lactobacillus paracasei L26 (L26) — which has the ability to neutralise toxins and viruses, as well as enhance gut health and immune system function.

Multiple studies have shown health benefits associated with consuming probiotics, including boosting the immune system and improving digestive systems. However, probiotics are commonly delivered only through dairy products such as yoghurt, which in recent years have raised concerns related to cholesterol, allergens and lactose intolerance, leading to an increased interest in expanding the modes of probiotic delivery.

The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends.

The probiotic sour beer was first mooted by Alcine Chan, a Year 4 NUS Food Science and Technology (FST) student for her final year project. Alcine, who will be graduating from the University in July, is a firm believer in the consumption of probiotics as part of a healthy diet — she consumes one dairy-based probiotic drink every day. “While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics,” she shared.

Together with her supervisor, Associate Professor Liu Shao-Quan from NUS FST, Alcine spent nine months perfecting the brewing process before an ideal recipe was determined. Altogether, six probiotic strains were tested, with the L26 strain proving the most resistant. By optimising factors such as temperature, time and amount of ingredients used in the recipe, the research team was able to enhance the physiology of the strain, sustaining its growth in the beer.

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Alcine (right) and Assoc Prof Liu with their invention

Every 100ml of the probiotic beer contains one billion units of probiotics, which is the daily amount recommended by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised, to allow the live probiotics to remain present. It has an alcohol content of about 3.5 per cent, and has a sharp and tart flavour profile.

“The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends,” Assoc Prof Liu opined.

The research team has filed a patent to protect the recipe for brewing of the beer and are hoping to collaborate with industry partners to scale up manufacturing and eventually commercialise the beer.

See press release.