Fruit-based prebiotic: A viable dairy alternative for probiotic foods and drinks?

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Pectin and pulp extracted from passion fruit makes an effective probiotic food carrier, research finds as it demonstrates properties that stimulate probiotic growth and survival in the gut.

Brazilian scientists point to this food matrices as a genuine alternative to industrial probiotic foods, which have traditionally been dairy products. By using components of fruit as vehicles for probiotics, those with dairy or lactose intolerances could now benefit from the health-enhancing properties of these gut microbes.

In addition, the team believe the outcomes garnered from this research could form a new generation of fruit-based probiotic beverages. 

Investigations have identified the Caatinga passion fruit (Passiflora cincinnata Mast.) as providing the nutrients for the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus to thrive against Escherichia coli infection and uropathogen growth.

“Probiotic beverages containing prebiotics have multiples advantages since the prebiotics pass through without affecting the small intestine to the lower gut and become accessible for probiotic bacteria without being utilized by other intestinal bacteria,” said the study, which was led by Ester Gouveia, from the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil.

“This improves the immune system for the prevention of intestinal infections,” she added.

The prebiotic in question pectin has shown potential gut health benefits. In the past, Kiwi pectin has played a role in increasing bacterial adhesion of L. rhamnosus and decreasing the adhesion of Salmonella typhimurium to intestinal cells.

Pectin inspection

Led by Gouveia, the team took commercial pectin (CP) and pectin extracted from Caatinga passion fruit peel (PE), and pulp. These were added to beverages along with sucrose. Control drinks without sucrose or pectin were also prepared.

The team obtained a PE yield of 54.93% yield after the drinks were prepared. More significantly, the team noted an absence of a gel layer in the beverages containing PE, an indication of its potentially longer shelf-life.

Additional findings revealed that PE increased gastrointestinal (GI) survival in non-fermented and fermented beverages.

After 28 days of refrigerated storage, the fermented beverages had the same lactic acid concentrations as at the initial time of storage (approximately 1.3 grams per litre (g/L)) and the consumption of sucrose was similar in all probiotic beverages (30%).

“The GI survival for all probiotic beverages had increased by the final time of storage and higher values were found when PE was added, regardless of fermentation,” explained the team.

“The low methylation degree pectin probably has stimulated the growth of L. rhamnosus ATCC 7469 during the simulation of gastrointestinal conditions.

Pectin’s nutraceutical uses

Pectin is an ingredient well known in the food and nutrition industry having found uses in dairy-based beverages, gummy confectioneries, condiments and baby foods.

While industrial pectin applications source the ingredient from apple pomace and citrus peel, commercial applications have begun to look elsewhere for alternative sources.

In the past, pectin has been extracted from soy and sunflower as well as more exotic types of fruits and vegetables.

More recently, cocoa pod husk pectin has been used as a nutraceutical agent as has mango, pumpkin and cactus.

Pectin has found a warm welcome in the sports nutrition industry with some researchers claiming its properties could boost nutraceutical performance and increase nutrient bioavailability.

Pectin has also found an intriguing use as a detoxifying powder supplement. Bulgarian-based VitaPro International claims its ProPectin powder, which contains 100% pharmaceutical-grade apple pectin, is able to help decrease the level of heavy metal poisoning in the body caused by pollution and environmental poisons.

Source: Food Bioscience

Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1016/j.fbio.2017.08.005

“Utilization of the pectin and pulp of the passion fruit from Caatinga as probiotic food carriers.”

Authors: Eloyza Santos, Raissa Andrade, Ester Gouveia

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