Postprint version. Published in International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 145, January 1, 2010, pages 169-175.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2010.12.006.
Recognized to confer health benefits to consumers, probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus are commonly incorporated into fermented dairy products worldwide; among which yogurt is a popular delivery vehicle. To materialize most of the putative health benefits associated with probiotics, an adequate amount of viable cells must be delivered at the time of consumption. However, the loss in their viabilities during refrigerated storage has been demonstrated previously. This study focused on the effects of yogurt starter cultures on the survival of five strains of L. acidophilus, with emphases on low pH and acid production. Differential survival behavior between L. acidophilus strains was further analyzed. To this end, viable cell counts of L. acidophilus were determined weekly during 4 °C storage in various types of yogurts made with Streptococcus thermophilus alone, L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus alone, both species of the starter cultures, or glucono-delta-lactone (GDL). All yogurt types, except for pasteurized yogurts, were co-fermented with L. acidophilus. Yogurt filtrate was analyzed for the presence of any inhibitory substance and for the amount of hydrogen peroxide. Multiplication of L. acidophilus was not affected by the starter cultures as all strains reached high level on day 0 of the storage period. Throughout the 28-day storage period, cell counts of L. acidophilus PIM703 and SBT2062 remained steady (~6×107 CFU/g) in yogurts made with both starter cultures, whereas those of ATCC 700396 and NCFM were reduced by a maximum of 3 and 4.6 logs, respectively. When starter cultures were replaced by GDL, all strains survived well, suggesting that a low pH was not a critical factor dictating their survival. In addition, the filtrate collected from yogurts made with starter cultures appeared to have higher inhibitory activities against L. acidophilus than that made with GDL. The presence of viable starter cultures was necessary to adversely affect the survival of some strains, as pasteurized yogurts had no effect on their survival. In particular, the inhibitory effect exerted by L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus on L. acidophilus NCFM was highly pronounced than by S. thermophilus, nevertheless, the same effect was not observed on SBT2062. The inhibition against stationary-phase NCFM cells might be caused by the elevated level of hydrogen peroxide produced by L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus. Delineating factors driving the differences in survival trait among probiotic strains will lead to a more efficacious delivery of health benefits in fermented dairy products through targeted technological interventions.