What is Propionibacterium and where is it found? What does Propionibacterium produce in the gut?
What is Propionibacterium?
Propionibacterium freudenreichii is a type of bacterium (lactic ferment) that is unique in its function. Propionibacterium freudenreichii is a non-motile gram positive bacterium.
It is chemoheterotrophic, which means that it needs complex carbohydrates to survive. It is also called a propionic bacteria because it has the particularity of producing propionic acid in the colon.
Propionic acid is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) and it is a substrate for the bifidobacteria that form part of our microbiota.
Where is this ferment found in food?
The Propionibacterium freudenreichii ferment is naturally present in dairy products. Today, it is a well-known lactic ferment used in the food industry.
In fact, it is traditionally used in the ripening of Swiss cheese and is involved in the formation of the "eyes" in the cheese.
What does Propionibacterium produce in the gut?
Once ingested, Propionibacterium freudenreichii is able to survive digestion and attach to cells and the intestinal mucosa.
It then ferments complex sugars (lactose, glucose, galactose and fructose) generating propionic acid. (Escudero Álvarez, 2006; De Rezende 2021).
It is a product recognised as safe and validated by the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) and by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dietary supplement based on Propionibacterium
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Not to be confused with Propionibacterium Acnes...
There are different species within the Propionibacterium genus of bacteria.
Propionibacterium freudenreichii, found in dairy products, is not to be confused with the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is part of the skin microbiota and which, when it colonises the pore, causes hypersecretion of sebum by the sebaceous glands, leading to acne.
Bouglé D et al. Effect of propionibacteria supplementation on fecal bifidobacteria and segmental colonic transit time in healthy human subjects. Scand J Gastroenterol. 1999 Feb;34(2):144-8.
de Rezende Rodovalho, Vinícius, et al. ‘Propionibacterium Freudenreichii: General Characteristics and Probiotic Traits’. Prebiotics and Probiotics - From Food to Health, IntechOpen, Apr. 2022.
Escudero Álvarez E., González Sánchez P.. La fibra dietética. Nutr. Hosp.