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Undergrad Research Leads to Probiotic Beer

Probiotic beer researchers

Liu Shao Quan, left, and Chan Mei Zhi Alcine with their probiotic beer (National University of Singapore)

28 June 2017. An undergraduate’s research project in Singapore led to the invention of a new type of beer having live bacteria associated with improving gut health. The new beer variety is a product of the Food Science and Technology Programme at National University of Singapore.

Bachelor’s degree candidate Chan Mei Zhi Alcine sought to apply her dietary preferences for live probiotic cultures to beer, also a fermented product, but where no products with live probiotics are yet on the market. Working in the lab of chemistry professor Liu Shao Quan in the Food Science and Technology Programme, Chan developed probiotic beer as her required final-year project. She expects to get her degree in July.

Probiotics are live organisms found in foods like yogurt, often associated with improving gut health and may help prevent cases of diarrhea or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of National Institutes of Health in the U.S., says benefits from probiotics have not yet been conclusively demonstrated, and not all probiotics have the same effects.

Chan discovered the challenge of inducing live probiotic bacteria to survive in beer, which also has acids from hops that prevent the growth and survival of bacteria, and required adjustments in conventional brewing and fermentation processes. However, Chan succeeded in developing techniques for growing counts of live bacteria in beer, although it took 9 months of work in the lab.

“For this beer,” says Chan in a university statement, “we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic microorganism. It will utilize sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavors.” Wort is an intermediate product in the beer-making process before fermentation.

The beer uses Lactobacillus paracasei L26, a strain of Lactobacillus, a gut microbe believed to neutralize some toxins and viruses, and in preclinical studies, shows an ability to improve gut and immune health. The final product, Chan notes, has an alcohol content of 3.5 percent.

Liu adds that Chan’s invention capitalizes on growing interest in probiotics for good health and popularity of craft beer. He says Chan’s invention, “is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy.”

National University of Singapore filed a patent for its recipe for probiotic beer, with Liu and Chan now seeking industry partners to take the invention to market.

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