Bifidobacterium was isolated for the first time in 1899 from a healthy, breast-fed new-born baby. It was subsequently accepted as an independent genus of bacteria the main characteristic of which is to produce lactic acid and acetic acid as the principal products of glucose fermentation.
Isolated in 1977, the human bifidobacteria strain Bifidobacterium longum BB536, is the most widely-studied in terms of health benefits. It is also one of the best-known. Over 40 articles have been published in scientific journals, highlighting in particular, its role in improving the intestinal environment, helping to maintain a healthy immune system and fight infection, and promoting bone strength.
Intestinal microflora comprises over 100 species of beneficial, neutral or harmful bacteria - all in constant conflict with each other. Their number and balance can be upset by a wide variety of causes such as antibiotics or other drugs, stress, ageing or alcohol consumption, in which case the health of the intestine and even the individual in general, can be affected. Probiotics such as bifidobacteria help to restore balance to intestinal microflora.
In particular, scientific research has shown that Bifidobacterium longum BB536:
- improves intestinal microflora in older people (levels of bifidobacteria decline with age) which, in turn, improves the intestinal environment and contributes to a healthy gastrointestinal system and its resistance to infection;
- its administration results in a significant increase in the proportion of Bifidobacteria in intestinal flora and a simultaneous reduction in products of putrefaction such as ammonia;
- in low-weight premature babies, it stimulates bifidobacteria colonisation and the formation of bifidobacteria microflora, thus reducing intestinal infections;
- leads to increased production of total IgAs and promotes resistance to infection by Escherichia-coli;
- has an immunostimulant effect (it encourages the production of specific and non-specific antibodies) as well as an anti-infective effect (the powerful bactericide action of the acetic acid produced by bifidobacteria destroys harmful bacteria such as Escherichia-coli);
- prevents diarrhoea caused by taking erythromycin or other antibiotics;
- regulates intestinal transit in people with constipation: it improves the intestinal environment by, in particular, reducing the ammonia content of stools and the activity of certain faecal enzymes, and increases the frequency of stools;
- inhibits the development of cancer or aberrant crypt foci;
- stimulates the immune system in older people with reduced immunity by activating their neutrophils and NK cells. It thus lowers risk of infection, particularly by the flu virus;
- significantly reduces symptoms of allergy to Japanese cedar pollen. It appears to work by combating the changes sustained by faecal flora over the course of the pollen season;
- boosts bone strength, probably by improving calcium absorption.