What are they?

‘Live cultures’ or ‘active cultures’ refer to the microorganisms found in foods such as yoghurt, which may be beneficial for human health. The term ‘live cultures’ is sometimes used instead of the word ‘probiotics’, and it seems that there is currently some movement in favour of the term 'live cultures', perhaps due to recent European legislation (the Nutrition & Health Claims regulation) which suggests that the word ‘probiotics’ could be seen as a health claim. Examples of live cultures include microorganisms such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

Are live cultures always bacterial?

They are often bacterial, but not always. It is also possible to have active cultures of beneficial yeasts, for example Saccharomyces boulardii.

Are they the same as probiotics?

It seems that probiotics are a type of live culture, but live cultures are not always probiotic. The World Health Organisation recognises probiotics as 'live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.' Arguably, live cultures only fulful the first part of this statement; that is the 'live microorganisms' part. When a particular strain of a microorganism undergoes human clinical trials and shows to be of benefit to the human host, only then should it really be classified as a probiotic.

Find out more about probiotics, and probiotic strains.

Are live cultures the same thing as dairy or yoghurt?

Not quite. Yoghurts will always contain live cultures (to different extents, according to various factors including pasteurisation, whether or not live cultures have been added for nutritional value, and so on), and interestingly, it is the live bacterial cultures which help to convert milk into yoghurt in the first place. However live cultures can also be found in other foods such as sauerkraut, and they may be extracted from dairy and cultivated and multiplied to make a live cultures (or 'probiotic') supplement.

Does OptiBac Probiotics do live cultures?

Yes. All of our products contain various types of live or active cultures (better still, they contain live probiotic cultures!) For more information, browse our product pages or read about us.

Comments

  • It still doesnt say; What are live and active cultures???!!!
    Im vegan, and now I dont want to eat my Silk soy yorgurts
    until if so, finding out, that they are really vegan; meaning,
    live, active, doesnt mean from animal anything.. what are live and
    active cultures!!!
    Deana, Corona, Ca

  • Hi Deana,

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment.
    This is an interesting point that you have raised - certainly any fermented product, whether food, drink or probiotic supplement - will contain micro-organisms. This is what we are referring to when we speak of the term 'live cultures' - in this case, they are bacteria or yeasts, but this term could also refer to viruses cultured in a laboratory for vaccination purposes!

    If you are viewing the bacteria as 'animal' and are worried about consuming them, then we probably need to look at the implications of this in a little more detail. Firstly, we encounter millions - maybe billions or trillions - of microorganisms during the course of a normal day. They are not visible to the naked eye, and are present in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and pretty much everything we touch.

    The other thing to consider is that, when we consume a probiotic supplement, or a yoghurt, the bacteria or yeasts these contain are not killed, but typically travel through the digestive system, and hopefully make a cosy home in our intestines or other nice, warm, moist areas of our body. Here, they receive bed and board from us, and in return they've evolved to offer us a wealth of health benefits. I'm sure you know that not bacteria are all friendly types, however, and so any nasties that enter the body should be kept under control by our resident armies of friendly flora if they are healthy and present in sufficient quantities.

    We challenge their existence with the use of antibiotics, poor diet and a stressful lifestyle, so sometimes it's necessary to introduce fresh populations of good bacteria to 'keep the home fires burning!'

    As for our range of products - some are cultured on a dairy medium as bacteria just love to feast on milk products, but some products in our product range are produced totally without any form of animal-derived medium. 'For every day', 'For every day EXTRA Strength', 'For those on antibiotics', 'Bifidobacteria & fibre', 'For women' and 'Saccharomyces boulardii' are completely dairy free and vegan. For more information, see our FAQ on the subject: 'Are the Optibac Probiotics range dairy-free or vegan?'

    I hope that this helps to clarify the term a little for you, but don't forget that there's a wealth of info available on our very comprehensive FAQ page, or you can email me with any other questions you may have.

    Wishing you (and your resident bacteria!) the very best of health,

    Kerry

  • Hey I am having a severe case of yeast infections. I eat yogurt with live culture but I keep getting a yeast infection. I want to know can a live proboitic help with this.

  • Hi Dianne,

    Thanks for your question.
    I'll reply to you directly with some suggestions that might help, but you may also wish to read this page about why you might choose probiotic supplements as well as yoghurts.

    Warm wishes,

    Kerry

  • I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol - can I take this with my Meds with no side effects?

  • Hello Connie,

    Thanks for your your query - you'll be pleased to know that there is no evidence of any contraindications between probiotics and prescription medications - see our FAQ 'When should I NOT take probiotics?'
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/when-should-i-not-take-probiotics
    However, as this information page explains, I wouldn't recommend that probiotics are taken alongside antibiotics and anti-fungals as these may damage the delicate live cultures in the products.

    Best wishes,

    Kerry

  • In yogurt, do live cultures primarily live in the thick creamy part or the liquidy whey part?

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Hi Nikki,

    Thank you for your interesting question.

    It's probably worth mentioning first that not all commercial yogurts contain live cultures - if they do, it should be stated on the packaging, and ideally state which species/strains of bacteria are used to culture the product.

    Yogurt is produced through the fermentation of previously heat-treated milk by lactic acid bacteria. Under controlled conditions, the bacteria ferment the milk sugar (lactose) in the milk, producing lactic acid. The proteins in the milk then coagulate and thicken, forming yogurt.

    Yogurt can be made from different types of milk, and other non-dairy milks too such as soya or almond, and the milks can be skimmed, semi-skimmed, whole, evaporated or powdered.

    In terms of where the bacteria live in dairy yogurt: they are living organisms so are adaptable but are typically found at the fat–protein interface, mostly casein or in pockets of whey.

    It can be difficult to monitor and assess the quantities of bacteria present in yogurts as these can vary, another good reason for supplementing with good quality probiotics where the amount of beneficial bacteria in each capsule is guaranteed.

    Best wishes,

    Kerry

  • Hello. If I am allergic to dairy (not just lactose ), and I eat a food with "cultures" in the ingredient, will I get sick?

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Hi Trinka,

    Thanks for your question.

    It's not the cultures that would cause a reaction if you have a serious allergy, it's any traces remaining of the original fermentation medium substance that may be a potential problem. As this substance, which is not always of dairy origin, is typically used up by the bacteria during the fermentation process, there would only be tiny traces of this left, if any, but this may be enough to trigger a reaction in those with a very serious allergy.

    For more information about this, and any potential allergens in our own product range, please look at these information pages:

    Is the OptiBac Probiotics supplements dairy-free or vegan?
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/are-the-optibac-supplements-dairy-free-or-vegan
    and 'General Allergy Information'
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/general-allergy-information

    Hope this answers your question.

    Best wishes,
    Kerry
    Nutritional Advisor

  • Hi, I am interested to know whether the live bacteria in Live Yoghurt will be strained out when I strain out the whey at home to make Labbneh. Also whether the calcium is in the whey?
    Many thanks

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Hi Emma,

    Thanks for your question.

    First of all, I need to point out that we're not specialists in yogurt making, so if you need very specific advice about yogurt then you may be better to contact a company that produces this type of fermented food.
    But I can tell you that, typically, most of the live bacteria in yogurt tend to be concentrated in the curds, though some do remain in the whey.
    The same re the calcium content, though this is more evenly split, with curds containing about 8% calcium and whey about 4%.

    I hope this helps,

    Kerry
    Nutritional Advisor
    OptiBac Probiotics

  • Are live cultures the same as active cultures? I bought yogurt that says "live cultures" on the label, but am I reaping the benefits of live and active cultures by eating it?

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Hi Caitlin,

    Thank you for your question.
    To answer your first question, the terms 'live' and 'active' cultures are essentially the same thing.
    Whether the cultures in your yogurt are live or active - if the label says so, then I'd imagine that the product contains living cultures, but the types of bacteria used in fermented foods can vary, and so can the quality of the product.

    We don't make yogurts or fermented foods, however, so for a more definitive answer about the viability of the cultures they use, I'd check with the company who produces your favourite yogurt.

    With kind regards,

    Kerry,

    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor

  • Hi!
    I've ready that yogurt is still good quite awhile after the expiration date, but I cannot find for the life of me this answer: At what point do the live active cultures begin to die? I don't mind eating the yogurt past the expiration, but let's face it, I'm only eating for the probiotics and if the cultures are dead, it's not worth it to me to eat it (just not a big fan of the way yogurt tastes in general), I can get the other nutrients somewhere else.
    Thanks - Gia

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    HI Gia,

    Thanks for your question.
    It's interesting how this page is becoming a yogurt forum!

    Sadly, we don't make yogurt, so I wouldn't like to venture a comment on the viability of the cultures contained in such products. Our probiotics contain different strains to those typically used in yogurts and other fermented foods, and are tested for viability, but I would not be able to give a generic answer to your question regarding the viability of live cultures used in the wide variety of fermented products out there.

    There can also be a wealth of difference in the quality of yogurt-type products, and if you have any queries regarding the products or the cultures used in them, I'd direct these to the manufacturer of your favourite yogurt or fermented food who should have their own research available.

    If you make your own fermented foods then it's more difficult to determine this, and it's one of the reasons why it can make sense to use a well-researched probiotic supplement as you know exactly what is in the product and the viability of the cultures it contains.

    See our Probiotic Myths - Busted section, in particular the Food Myth
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/live-cultures/probiotic-myths/food-myth

    I hope this helps,

    Kerry

    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor

  • My 4 year old daughter is prone to yeast candida infections, especially after antibiotics. Will the probiotic For babies and children help or is it the wrong strains?
    Thank you,
    Lynne

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Hi Lynne,

    Thank you for your question; however, I can't make personal recommendations via the webpage.
    I will therefore email you directly with some suggestions.

    Best wishes,

    Kerry

  • Please send me a website on which probiotics is good for a menopausal women who has BV Thank you.

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Dear Millie,

    Thank you for your question.

    I think you might be interested to read some of our latest blog posts that cover these issues. You can find these by going to our own website, www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk, and typing 'Bacterial Vaginosis' or 'Menopause' into the Search field.

    You might find these two blogs of particular interest:
    'Probiotics and Bacterial Vaginosis: The Facts'
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/blog/2014/11/probiotics-and-bacterial-vaginosis-the-facts
    'Could Probiotics Help With Menopause Symptoms?'
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/blog/2016/04/could-probiotics-help-with-menopause-symptoms

    Hope this is useful.

    Best wishes,

    Kerry,
    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor

  • Which one can I use to prepare nut cheese?
    Thank you

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Hi Sonia,

    I can only really advise you regarding the strains of bacteria we carry within our product range and, although we do know that some of our customers use our products as starter cultures for fermented foods (including nut cheese) and report good results, we can only recommend taking them in the capsule or sachet form as this is the way it has been tested in clinical trials.

    But I'd say, go for it if you want to try them out!

    I can’t say how successful it will be as the strains aren’t tested as starter cultures, but they certainly won’t be harmful.

    Let us know how you get on!

    With best wishes,

    Kerry
    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor

  • Is it safe for breastfeeding?

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Dear Sammy,

    Thanks for your question.
    If you're interested in taking probiotics whilst you're breast-feeding, then I suggest that you take a look at our FAQ: Can I take probiotics when I'm pregnant or breast-feeding?
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/can-i-take-optibac-probiotics-if-i-am-pregnant-or-nursing

    It really depends on the type of probiotic strain that you choose - most bacterial products are fine to be taken as necessary during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
    The only probiotic that we don't recommend at this time is Saccharomyces boulardii; this is primarily because there is a lack of research in this sector of the population, rather than because any potential risks have been identified.

    Hope this is helpful, but if you have any more questions, you can email us on [email protected]

    With best wishes,

    Kerry
    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor

  • I'm a vegan and trying to get clear on this. So, what I'm reading is that all live cultures started out as milk but end up as lactic acid? That the milk morphed into a live culture and that culture is no longer considered milk? Though if it started out as dairy milk and dairy milk is being used then there has to be an animal producing that milk,

    Is there a live and active culture that started out from say... rice milk, almond milk, or coconut milk?

  • Response from OptiBac Probiotics

    Dear Ally,

    Thank you for your questions, and I do hope that I can help to clarify things for you.

    Live cultures need a food source like any other living organisms.These microorganisms convert sugars, such as glucose, into other compounds, to produce energy. These bacteria and yeasts are used in the fermentation of foods, and different types of live cultures prefer different types of foods, just like we do. So whilst some may prefer to thrive in dairy-based foods, others, such as our Saccharomyces boulardii, was originally found living in fruit.

    Human beings around the world have been using these live cultures to ferment different types of foods for thousands of years, and most countries have their traditional favourites.

    So, to answer your question further, the cultures don't all 'start out' as milk; just some species of bacteria ferment the sugars in milk and convert them to lactic acid.

    Now that live cultures are produced commercially, a wide range of different fermentation mediums are used, from dairy and soy, to barley and other foods, depending on which medium the different strains of bacteria will thrive on best.

    Vegans tend to avoid those bacteria that have been cultured on animal products, but there are plenty of non-dairy fermented foods out there, and in terms of our own products, see our FAQ: Are OptiBac Probiotics dairy-free or vegan?' to see which of our range is suitable for our vegan customers.
    http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/are-the-optibac-supplements-dairy-free-or-vegan

    I hope that this answers your question.

    Best wishes

    Kerry
    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor
    OptiBac Probiotics


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