Streptococcus thermophilus

  • What is Streptococcus thermophilus?

Streptococcus thermophilus is a very important lactic acid bacterium that is usually used to produce milk, cheese and other dairy products, generally for commercial purposes. It hydrolyzes milk proteins and casein into nitrogen compounds, used as starting cultures for food fermentation. Given the unusual cell structure characterizing S. thermophilus, the bacteria can sustain high temperatures making it ideal for industrial dairy processes that usually require elevated temperatures.

Streptococcus thermophilus is a type of good bacteria that can be found in yogurt. The amount of live microorganisms is pretty hard to determine from one batch to another. When people take antibiotics for infections, they also affect the intestinal flora killing good bacteria. S. thermophilus can help enhance the immune response.

S. thermophilus is also responsible for the production of exopolysaccharides, essential substances to the texture of fermented milk foods. Without them, there wouldn’t be low-fat dairy products that have the same features as the full-fat ones. These bacteria can hydrolyze casein, the main protein found in dairy products, and reduces it into smaller parts, amino acids and peptides useful for the maturation of flavors and textures in low-fat cheeses.

  • Health benefits

S. thermophilus is the most used bacteria in the food industry, and according to the USDA statistics from 1998, it was utilized to produce more than 1.02 billion kg of mozzarella and 621 million kg of yogurt. Even though Streptococcus also has pathogenic strains, the food industry uses the safest bacterium from all the species, and it is even thought to have beneficial effects over the health.

S. thermophilus taken as live cultures help those who are lactose intolerant digest dairy products. The bacteria have the function of breaking down lactose, the sugar enzyme found in milk that lactose-intolerants cannot digest.

Lactose intolerance can be prevented with the help of lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus. This combination of microorganisms cultured in the laboratory appeared to stimulate the production of disease-fighting cells. The bacteria may also be beneficial in cancer prevention, since it seems to reduce the amount of nitrite in the body.

The yogurt production process has several beneficial effects over the digestive system. The good bacteria break down lactose, the sugar in the milk and transform it into lactic acid, very well received by those who are lactose intolerant. The lactic acid also diminishes pH levels and results in the milk turning bitter and curdling. This also stops the development of bacteria that produce food poisoning.

A recent research study had proven that children who took the supplements based on these bacteria had a stable growth rate for a 6-month period, as opposed to those who didn’t take any supplement.

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