The primary nutritional benefits of cultured milk products are due to their compositional makeup. All milk products are excellent sources of high-quality proteins (casein and whey), calcium, and vitamins (especially riboflavin and other B vitamins). Early in the twentieth century Eli Metchnikoff (1908) proposed in his book, Prolongation of Life Optimistic Studies, that the consumption of cultured milk products such as yogurt result in the prolongation of life. Metchnikoff based his claims on the ability of lactic bacteria to prevent putrefactive processes in the digestive tract (4). Although lactic cultures do produce antimicrobial effects from the production of acids, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotics such as nisin, scientific evidence does not support Metchnikoff's claims of prolonged life due to the consumption of cultured products. However, there is growing scientific evidence that the addition of alternative organisms to cultured products such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium sp. may have therapeutic effects in the lower digestive system (5). Many of these organisms are believed to be able to pass through the upper digestive system and then produce beneficial effects in the lower intestine. Recent research suggest that the consumption of these probiotic cultures in cultured milk products could aid in the prevention of intestinal infections, diarrheal diseases, hypercholesterolaemia, lactose diges-

Table 2. Starter Cultures and Their Principal Metabolic Products

Starter organisms

Important metabolic products

Mesophilic bacteria (optimum growth temperature of20-35°C)

Lc. cremoris Lc. lactis

Lc. lactis ssp. diacetylactis Leuc. cremoris Lb. acidophilus Lb. breves Lb. casei

Lactic acid Lactic acid Lactic acid, diacetyl Lactic acid, diacetyl Lactic acid

C02, acetic acid, lactic acid Lactic acid

Thermmophilic bacteria (optimum growth temperature of>35°C)

Str. thermophilus Lb. bulgaricus Lb. lactis Bifidobacteria

Saccharomyces cerevisiae Candida (Torula) kefir Kluveromyces fragilis

Lactic acid, acetaldehyde Lactic acid, acetaldehyde Lactic acid

Lactic acid, acetic acid


Ethanol, C02 Ethanol, C02 Acetaldehyde, C02

tion, and cancer.

Note: Lc. = Lactococcus, Leuc. = Leuconostoc, Lb. = Lactobacillus, Str.


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