Probiotics literally mean “for life”. In 2002, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) gave them a clear definition: Probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a benefit on the host. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the most commonly used probiotics in pharmaceutical, dietary supplement and food industries, and both of them have a long history of safe use in the dairy industry and are naturally present in the intestinal tract of people. These “friendly bacteria” colonize the intestinal tract, to help digest food, solve digestive disorders, and improve intestinal health. They have been confirmed to be able to enhance immunity, especially during cold and flu seasons. In addition, the latest evidences show that probiotics also have potential health benefits in weight management, cognitive health, and women’s health. As a matter of fact, there has been quite a long history for humans to eat probiotics. Early people used fermentation as a way to store food. But they didn’t realize at the time that this was cultivating probiotics. Until the late 19th century, scientists still knew little about probiotics.
In 1905, Nobel Prize winner, Russian microbiologist E. Metchnikoff discovered that people in the Caucasus were long lived because they ate yogurt containing a lot of lactic acid bacteria, and became the first to come up with the theory that “gut bacteria are good for health” in 1906. This is how the concept of probiotics came into being. In 1954, German scientist Ferdinand Vergin used the word “probiotics” to describe those “active substances” beneficial to health. In 1996, scientists were able to conduct thorough researches on probiotics through sophisticated and efficient DNA sequencing. Ever since then, the studies of probiotics have received more and more attention, and a lot of research results have been achieved.