Enhancing health benefits of coffee with probiotics
NUS food scientists have developed a coffee beverage rich in live probiotics and health-promoting metabolites that enhance gut health and immunity.
Globally, four in 10 adults suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, which can adversely affect quality of life. Probiotics, which are microorganisms that have been clinically shown to improve gut health, could help relieve gastrointestinal disorders for individuals and keep them healthy. However, traditional probiotic carriers are largely restricted to and consumed as supplements and dairy products (e.g. yogurt and cultured milk). Consumers who are lactose intolerant and vegans would find this limiting as they would not be able to enjoy the health benefits associated with probiotic consumption.
A research team led by Prof Liu Shao Quan from the Department of Food Science and Technology, National University of Singapore, has developed a fermented coffee beverage which is rich in clinically proven probiotics suitable for consumption by the general population. The researchers used a mass spectrometry-based metabolomics technique to discover health-promoting metabolites in the probiotic coffee (see Figure). Metabolomics is an analytical approach which can be used for the analysis and identification of bioactive compounds in food products.
The research team developed the coffee drink by adding specially selected nutrients to brewed coffee, followed by carefully chosen probiotics. Through a natural fermentation process, each cup of coffee can contain at least 1 billion live probiotics. It can also be stored for at least six months under ambient conditions without compromising on probiotic viability. The probiotic fermentation process provides the coffee drink with healthy metabolites such as indole-3-lactate, 1H-indole-3-carboxaldehyde, 4-hydroxyphenylactate, and 3-phenyllactate. Apart from enhancing gut health, these metabolites are scientifically proven to also elicit antimicrobial, immunomodulatory and antilipolytic effects. The research findings can potentially provide consumers with a better choice for their daily caffeine fix.
Prof Liu said, "By infusing probiotics into an everyday beverage enjoyed by the masses, the health benefits of probiotic consumption can be unlocked to mainstream audiences."
Ms Alcine Chan, a Ph.D. student on the research team said, "We have ensured that the original coffee flavors are not compromised despite having the probiotic fermentation element. For example, acidic compounds which are commonly produced by probiotics breaking down the sugars in the beverage could lead to unpleasant sourness in the taste. This is addressed by carefully devising a formulation that ensures the sourness is not prominent."
The research team has filed a patent for the probiotic coffee formulation and hopes to collaborate with industry partners to commercialize the research outcome and bring the benefits of the probiotic coffee drink to the wider public.
Mei Zhi Alcine Chan et al, Growth, survival, and metabolic activities of probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii CNCM-I745 in fermented coffee brews, International Journal of Food Microbiology (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2021.109229