Given that most of us imbibe more often than we probably should, it’s a shame alcohol is notorious for being a source of “empty calories”—energy with few, if any, nutritional benefits. But that fact could be about to change thanks to one smart student from the National University of Singapore.
Over the course of nine months, a 22 year old science student called Alcine Chan created a beer with billions of probiotics—the live bacteria strains that play an essential role in digestive health by helping to break down food, counteract disease-causing microbes and synthesize vitamins.
Fermented foods are a great natural source of probiotics, but aside from yogurt, most are fairly niche, like kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi—a fermented vegetable dish from Korea. Chan wanted to give these essential microorganisms mainstream appeal, and what better way to achieve her mission than by adding them to beer—a drink many people consume on a very regular basis.
The task wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Hop acids in the beer kill off bacteria, so developing her product was a case of tweaking the brewing process and experimenting with different strains until she hit on one that was robust enough to survive: Lactobacillus paracasei.
The probiotic beer was a university project for Chan, but apparently a Japanese company has expressed interest in bringing her idea to market. Nutritionists warn that we don’t need another reason to consume excess booze, but on the flip side, at least this innovative beverage gives health benefits to an otherwise nutritionally-irrelevant dietary staple.
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