Eating Bacteria is Healthy

Probiotic Drinks

Probiotic Drinks (Photo credit: Jepster)

Our first guest posting from Spring 2013: Sandra Malinowski (11 AM Micro, and niece of Randi-11 AM Micro, Spring 2009) is interested in probiotics. The premise behind probiotics is that the introduction of living, non-pathogenic microorganisms in the diet can help to eliminate harmful microorganisms from the body and alleviate disease.  One student from last fall felt that the data regarding probiotics was not very conclusive so far.  Here is Sandra’s take on this topic, via an article in the New York Times:

In today’s world we think of bacteria as a bad thing when it comes to what we are ingesting, but what we don’t account for is the good bacteria that are in most of the foods we eat on a daily basis. In fact processes like fermentation is what gives some of our favorite foods the flavor that we know and love.  Fermented food is that whose taste and texture have been altered by the addition of beneficial bacteria or fungi.  Some of the most popular foods that contain these good bacteria include cheese, soy sauce, sauerkraut, salad dressings, bread, beer, wine and several other foods we come into contact with on a day to day basis.   In an article posted by the New York Times, Mr. Katz, an individual that is a fermentation guru, explores the benefits of what good bacteria does for our bodies and how it has personally helped him in his struggle with HIV aids.

Our ancestors even used fermentation to make drinks out of liquefied berries, which shows how bacteria has been influencing societies and evolution even before our time.  Mr. Katz spends a majority of his time experimenting with these good bacteria to come up with different concoctions and flavors that can add to his diet consisting of bacteria infused foods.  He actually has his own fermentation laboratory where he carries out his trials.  One of the major ingredients used in these experiments is mold, which many of us would turn up our noses to.   Katz fuses mold with rice or barley and then adds it to the base of soybeans.  This complex is then mixed with pine nuts, pistachios, and lentils to make flavorful miso.  A renown chef came and sampled a lot of Katz’s creations and found them to be delightful, and giving him new ideas for his own dishes and exploration into new microbial pathways.

When we are dining we are actually sharing our experience with a vast army of microbial companions that most of us are unaware of and if we are try not to think too much into it because its isn’t very appetizing to think about.  Although this is true, foods containing these beneficial bacteria and fungi have several internal health benefits.  Mr. Katz describes how although these foods have not cured his HIV aids, they have alleviated a large majority of the adverse side effects that the medications cause. There are several bacteria that are harmful to our bodies but these beneficial bacteria that our diets contain keep us healthy and our bodies functioning optimally.  Some of these bacteria include Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and certain Streptococci.  These bacteria can help to stabilize the intestinal tract and ensure that you have regulatory bowel movements.  These bacteria can also help in the production vitamins, especially B complex, and improve nutrient. Who would have suspected that bacteria and mold are in the foods we eat every day and hold such positive health benefits daily without us even realizing it?

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on February 22, 2013, in Guest Post, You are what you eat. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Eating Bacteria is Healthy.

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