Functional foods are designed to provide a specific and beneficial physiological effect on health and/or well-being beyond the provision of simple nutrients. With the current focus on disease prevention, the functional products market potential is enormous. Probiotic foods, containing health-promoting bacteria, are the most important and well-known group of functional foods. Commonly used probiotic bacteria belong to species normally living in the intestinal tract.
However, illness, poor diet, stress, ageing, infections and the use of antibiotics and other medicines can destroy the balance between these beneficial species and other undesirable or pathogenic bacterial strains, which can then occupy the free niche. Against this, a regular intake of probiotic bacteria has been claimed to deliver health benefits such as strengthened immune system, reduced colon cancer risk, lowered cholesterol levels, prevention of diarrhoea, etc.
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