Today it is thought that the first lactic cultures or more precisely lactic acid bacteria – also called LAB “lactic acid bacteria” – appeared on Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period between 145 and 65 million years ago, when micro-organisms began to find a great abundance of fruits, rich in sugars, which they could ferment.
The isolation of the first lactic bacteria dates back to the eighteenth century thanks to the significant contribution of Frenchman Louis Pasteur, who experienced the first lactic fermentation. The concept of lactic bacteria as a group of micro-organisms capable of transforming milk into curd developed in the early twentieth century. And it was thanks to the appearance of them in a monograph by Orla-Jensen, that a more precise definition, closer to the current concept of LAB was found where the author wrote: “the true lactic bacteria form a large natural group of cocci and sticks, which ferment sugars and higher alcohols to form mainly lactic acid” and start the fermentation.
It is not only milk however, but also meat, fish, vegetables, baked goods, and drinks, that are the derivatives of lactic fermentations, which means that on our tables today there are foods such as cheeses, yogurt, bread, sausages, and much more to enjoy and marvel at the bacterial wonders created.
Today, it is quick to confuse the meaning of lactic ferments and probiotics because the use of these two terms, often by industry insiders, is simplistic and sometimes unfortunately incorrect.
So, let’s clarify:
Cultures are all those micro-organisms that occur naturally in foods, fodder, cereal flours, natural baking yeast, milk, dairy products and cheeses, meat and fermented derivative products, in beer, wine, fruit and fruit juices, in olives and pickled gherkins, but also (did you know?) in human and animal mucous membranes. Each habitat of “origin” often corresponds to the right fermentation, Lactobacillus, Lactococcus and Streptococcus, for example, originating in milk are often used for the production of many dairy products, such as yoghurt, for example.
Probiotics, on the other hand, were defined by the WHO in the early 2000s as “live organisms that confer a state of well-being to the host organism if administered in an adequate concentration”. They are in fact micro-organisms that, in most cases, produce lactic acid but which unlike lactic acid bacteria (or lactic ferments) remain alive within the body, replicating and ensuring a beneficial effect.
Lactic Acid bacteria and where to find them.
In short, lactic bacteria are almost everywhere, in our favourite foods and drinks and even in our bodies or in that of our animal friends. It is good to be able to recognize them, learn the effects and their benefits, but above all know where to find them!
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