2013-01-14

Co.Exist

Drink This Probiotic Coffee And Maybe You'll Escape This Winter's Many Strains Of Illness

By finding a way to keep good bacteria alive in hot drinks, this new beverage comes both with caffeine and a health-boosting kick (though just how much of a health boost remains to be seen).

Probiotics are key to a healthy digestive tract. The live microorganisms, commonly found in yogurt and dietary supplements, slash the amount of bad bacteria in your gut, leaving the healthy stuff to flourish. Probiotics can prevent stomach upset, acid reflux, digestive tract infections, and according to new research, some can even help prevent the cold and increase response to flu vaccines. So, of course, here comes the world’s first probiotic coffee, now on sale from a company called Tipton Mills.

The probiotic used in the instant coffee, GanedenBC30 was developed by Ganeden Biotech. It contains 10 times as many cultures as regular probiotic yogurt. As anyone who stores probiotic supplements in the fridge knows, the bacteria is sensitive to temperature. Ganeden’s challenge was to make a probiotic that doesn’t die when it’s in a hot drink—and then survives the human body’s roiling stomach acids.

As Tim Sheehy, the president of Tipton Mills, explains, Ganeden succeeded. "[The probiotic] is heat stable allowing the bacillus to survive in the intestine," he says. That stability means GanedenBC30 could be used in any number of products—frozen dinners, soup mixes, pastries etc. Coffee is just the beginning.

Here’s how the probiotic works, courtesy of an explainer on Ganeden’s website:

GanedenBC30 is a spore-forming probiotic bacterium, meaning that inside the bacterial cell is a hardened structure, or spore, which is analogous to a seed. This spore safeguards the cell’s genetic material from the heat and pressure of manufacturing processes, challenges of shelf life and the acid and bile it is exposed to during transit to the digestive system. Once it is safely inside the small intestine, the viable spore is then able to germinate and produce new vegetative cells or good bacteria. Other ‘traditional’ probiotic organisms, such as lactobacillus, acidophilus and bifidobacteria are not able to form these protective spores, making them vulnerable to heat, pressure, shelf life variables and the acid and bile challenges of the digestive system.

Sheehy says that the coffee "aids in digestion and boosts your immune system," but he shies away from telling people to drink it to prevent illness. But in an interview with BeverageDaily, Andy Johnson, a marketing manager at Tipton Mills, said that it’s possible the coffee will eventually be sold with health claims attached. "It really comes down to our partner Ganeden coming up with the science," he said.

There is no hard evidence yet on GanedenBC30's ability to boost the flu vaccine’s usefulness and prevent common colds. That has only been shown with two common probiotic strains, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. When combined, the strains increase total antibody concentrations and boost vaccine-specific immune responses, according to Digital Journal. With few options in the battle to prevent the flu besides getting a moderately effective shot and obsessively using hand sanitizer, probiotic coffee is worth a try, even if all of its benefits haven’t yet been analyzed.

This immunity-boosting product doesn’t come cheap, though: a six-pack of Tipton Mills probiotic coffee will set you back $5.49.

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3 Comments

  • Michael McClune

    Probiotic coffee has been marketed and sold in the EU since the mid 2000s and it's coming to North America. http://bit.ly/11C5zbs. More than just coffee and bacteria, it's nutrients + vitamins/minerals + 75 calories to curb hunger.

  • Judith

    A heat-resistant bacillus, hmmm  Just need a recombination event with another bacterium such as B. cereus (which causes food poisoning) and you have a a disease-causing organism that cannot be killed by standard heat sterilization.  Utterly brilliant.