What are Live Cultures?
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.