Ground-breaking research boosts cancer-fighters in yoghurt


Date: 06/11/2002

New 'smart yoghurts' that improve people's immunity and potentially fight cancer may soon hit the supermarkets shelves following a research breakthrough at the University of Western Sydney.

The UWS probiotics research team have developed new packaging that significantly increases the viability and level of 'good' probiotic bacteria in the yoghurt we eat.

"The heavy use of antibiotics in the past means they are no longer the magic bullets of modern medicine because of increasingly resistant bacteria," says chief researcher, Dr Kaila Kailasapathy.

"Probiotics are the new generation of disease-fighters. These good bacteria enhance immunity and can help prevent diseases such as colon cancer.

"Probiotics prevent pathogens by a process of competitive exclusion. In a way, probiotics can act as a vaccine, with the ability to arm the immune system against incoming pathogens."

One of the best ways to increase probiotic bacteria in the digestive system is by eating yoghurt, which contains lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp. However, Dr Kailasapathy says up until now it's been difficult for people to eat enough yoghurt to gain the benefits.

"At the moment Australians would need to eat around five kilograms of yoghurt a week to do any good," he says.

"That's because the therapeutic benefit of probiotic bacteria depend on their survival through the 48-day shelf life of commercial yoghurt. This long 'use-by' period means that by the time you consume the yoghurt much of the goodness has been lost."

Dr Kailasapathy believes the new 'active packaging' his team has developed is the answer.

The advanced technology uses a barrier-packaging film to remove oxygen from the product and prevent oxygen access during storage.

"By altering the properties of the material used in packaging, we can control the level of oxygen in the product. This will protect the probiotic Bifido-bacteria, which is the most beneficial bacteria for intestinal tract health, from being destroyed," Dr Kailasapathy says.

"Currently we are testing the packaging on a pilot scale and we will proceed to commercial implementation next year.

"With this active packaging, yoghurt manufacturers will have a significantly better product for consumers. Hopefully, we will see new these new 'smart yoghurts' on supermarket shelves in the near future.

"This packaging also promises to revolutionise Australian packaging and food industries and provide them with a commercial advantage in local and international markets."

UWS is conducting the research in partnership with Food Science Australia, Dairy Farmers and Visy Industries.

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For more information or requests for interviews contact Suzie Vlaming, Senior Media Officer, 02 9678 7429, 0414 308 701, s.vlaming@uws.edu.au

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