What are refrigerated probiotics and why they need to be refrigerated? How they are different from non-refrigerated, freeze fried and shelf-stable probiotics? Read on to learn more in addition, learn about the best brands for kids and adults and where to buy.
Why Are Probiotics Refrigerated?
Refrigeration is a process of moving heat from one location to another in controlled conditions. In this scenario, it is the process of keeping probiotic products below room temperature by storing the item in a system or substance designed to cool . This process is usually achieved by a refrigerators and fridges. These systems are designed to remove heat from items stored inside the system.
Why Refrigerate the good Bacteria?
Some probiotic supplements be it in pill, capsule, or liquid form are basically refrigerated to keep them from going bad. Have you ever asked yourself why you keep your food in the refrigerator? The reason is the same as the case of the good bacteria. It is essentially to slow their maturation and prolong their viability.
As Probacto puts it, “microorganisms have a life cycle like anything else, growing, feeding, and dying, and like fruit, the organisms will mature rapidly in warm temperatures. Sometimes they mature and become damaged, or die, or they grow and proliferate, and that’s not good either. Left at room temperature, organisms will go “bad” per se, but they will lose their useful properties as they over abundantly proliferate or else die off. In both cases, the result is lowered potency and decreased benefit.”
At what temperature do probiotics die?
For any factors which kill bacteria (pH, heat, chemicals, etc), they usually die in logarithmic pattern, meaning each second longer they are exposed to this stress the number of cells (bacteria) dying per second increases by factors of 10. Anything above -65 Celsius is likely to kill the bacteria- according a food scientist on Quora
Does every probiotic need to be refrigerated?
As you will learn shortly, not all probiotics will require to be stores below room temperatures. Refridgeration will vary from product to product. Make sure to check the product labeling to find out.
What happens if you don’t Refrigerate Probiotics?
For some probiotics; the shelf-stable varieties, nothing will happen but for the types that require to be put in the fridge, the microoranisms will get destroyed thus deliver zero benefits.
What destroys or makes Probiotics go bad or die?
In the recent past, studies show that the contents of some store-bought probiotics brands contained no viable probiotic bacteria at all.
At same time, tests by ConsumerLab.com found that out of 19 probiotics for people, 5 contained only 16% to 56% of the listed amounts of organisms. Levels of organisms in probiotics for pets were so low as to question their usefulness.
So what destroy the good bacteria in probiotic supplements?
Prescript-Assist outlines some factors that determine the loss of freshness and viable cultures over time of a typical LAB-based probiotic.
1. Heat during Storage
Heat destroys probiotic bacteria. Low temperature is critical to keep the viability of probiotic bacteria.
- At 70˚Farenheit, viability decreases 10-15% per month. Above 80˚Farenheit, the loss is more than doubled.
- Maintaining storage temperatures below 36 -39˚Farenheit increases probiotic survival, specifically L. acidophilus and B. bifidum, however large scale losses must still be anticipated.
As Kaila Kailasapathy, a researcher with the University of Western Sydney in Australia, in Immunology & Cell Biology notes, in every probiotic culture, “the cell count at the end of incubation must be sufficiently high to allow up to 90% mortality of probiotic bacteria during storage – and yet still leave their number above the desired minimum of 106 CFU/mL viable cells,”
2. Non-Symbiotic Bacteria
Studies have revealed that L. acidophilus and B. bifidobacteria do not survive in several U.S. yogurt products, due to the presence of another bacteria, L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus, which in effect kills the “good bacteria.”This lack of cooperation between some species is yet another factor reducing the viability of many probiotic products.
Humidity and moisture are a huge problem for probiotic products. Moisture activates the bacteria and essentially starts the process of degradation, since the activation is intended to occur after ingestion. To combat this issue Some manufacturer’s products are sealed at low humidity as they are manufactured, which results in a foil-packed probiotic product. However, this only works as long the sealing is maintained. Once the product is opened, it is exposed to moisture from the air and the probiotic bacteria begin to deteriorate.
A few companies have turned to microencapsulation which still comes with some challenges. Yet in an effort to find solution some manufacturers have come up with SBO probiotics such as Bacillus subtilis which are said to have naturally adapted to be resilient against both humidity and temperature through a protective organic shield which is not shed until the bacteria reaches its final destination
4. Damaging Effects of Manufacturing Process
As mentioned earlier, 0ne of the major concerns in probiotic viabilty is heat. Too much contact with heat will kill the delicate bacteria, whether the exposure is during manufacture or storage. According to some manufacturers, microencapsulation is one technique that attempts to improve the viability while in the process.
However, industry experts have voiced skepticism, stating that common species like L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum will always require refrigeration, regardless of these protective measures. In fact, the microencapsulation process itself is known to destroy probiotic bacteria. The concern is that these novel technologies are simply not sufficient to overcome the inherent vulnerability of non-refrigerated acidophilus and Lactobacillus probiotics, and that more resistant species may be the only viable solution.
Variations in packaging can also contribute how long the live cultures will survive. Resistant packaging such as microencapsulation can help to maintain the viability.
Freeze Dried Probiotics
Freeze-drying or deep-freeze is a common preservation technology in the pharmaceutical industry to protect probiotic viability. Deep-frozen or freeze-dried probiotic cultures involve strict control of water content.
According to tests, for maximum survival of L. acidophilus in freeze-dried cultures when stored at room temperature, the water level must be less than 0.25 U – which translates to an extremely low moisture content.
Another test found that the medium which is used in deep-freezing also matters. According to this study, ” when microorganisms were freeze-dried in water alone and in the absence of any cryoprotective substance, the survival rate was only 2-3% and the population of the bacteria decreased in a significant manner . The addition of 6% skim milk to the medium increased the viability of bacteria up to 20%. Microorganisms showed higher survival rate when trehalose was added to the cryoprotective media. Media containing 8% trehalose showed greater effect than that containing 4%. A survival percentage of about 17-19% was found in media containing sodium ascorbate and skim milk, indicating that sodium ascorbate at a concentration of 2% did not exhibit a good protective effect during freeze-drying.”
However, it does not mean that freeze-drying is the ultimate solution but at least it solves the problem to some extent. It is worth noting that exposure to an unfriendly environment will make this preservation technique of no use.
One of the known freeze-dry probiotic brand is Garden-of-Life
Shelf stable Probiotics(Non-refrigerated) vs Refrigerated Probiotics
As mentioned earlier, the behavioral response of the probiotics depend on the kind of organisms they are made of. Consequently, some requires refrigeration and others do not. So, when it comes to go for a comparative study, we need to consider several points in order to extrapolate facts correctly.
It’s true that several probiotics come with the instruction of refrigeration. If they are not kept in the refrigerator, they become less effective over time and soon lose their potential. So, in these cases, probiotics need to be kept in the refrigerator to increase their shelf-life. There are a lot of instances, when the freeze-dried products are kept in room temperatures and they soon got perished.
However, there’s a specified limit up to which you can store probiotics in the refrigerator. Keep in mind, when you get them from a store, you are typically unaware about the length of time it’s been stored in the shelf. May be these are stored beyond the specified limit and this is the reason why you should avoid taking it. It’s important to check the manufacturing date and other details, so that you can understand, whether it has lost its potential or has become less effective.
Shelf Stabble Probiotics
These are the probiotics, which can be safely stored at a room temperature. In fact, they do not even need the initial refrigeration after you purchase it. That way, it’s a convenient option as the nutrients inside can stay intact even at room temperature.
Some of the known shelf-stable, non-refrigerated brands include;
- Natrol’s Biobeads,
- Enzymatic Therapy’s Pearls,
- Renew Life’s Floramore,
- Nutrition Now’s BP8.
- Prescript- Assist
Now the question is what’s to be done in case you need to protect the probiotics from the bacterial attack, especially when they are not refrigerated. From this perspective, a refrigerated probiotics is the best thing one can use as refrigeration can keep away bacteria for an extended period of time. With refrigeration, you are getting a product that won’t further affect your health. On the other hand, most of the non-refrigerated probiotics have to be used within the shortest possible time after being unpacked. In any case, when the probiotics are kept open in environment, bacteria continues to affect its effectiveness.
You will always come across both the products in the store, however, a wise choice is to opt for the refrigerated ones as they are mostly free from bacterial contamination.
Best Refrigerated Probiotics Brands for Kids & Adults
With the improvements in the refrigeration techniques and shipping procedures, a large number of manufacturers are investing in probiotics. But, some of them have managed to promote themselves as well acknowledged brands. The ones given here are the most popular names over the past few years. These brands have products for both kids and adults.
- Bio-K+ Probiotics
- Garden of Life Raw Probiotics
There are other choices too, but in terms of quality standards, nothing can match the ones mentioned in the list.
There are some important things, which are needed to be considered while buying probiotics. If you are buying a probiotics with a label that says it requires refrigeration, be sure that your retailer has kept it refrigerated. Even if you are ordering something online, it’s been shipped overnight refrigerated to do away with the risk of exposure to extreme heat. This may happen during warm weather. Usually freeze-dried probiotics are not damaged by extremely cold temperatures. For example, the products, which are shipped via airplane cargo, can be shipped in extremely lower temperature.
So, when you are placing an order for probiotics, you need to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Those which require refrigeration must be kept like that, but if the probiotics come in a blister pack or similar container, you need to use it right away. These can’t be kept on storage, as the organisms die down soon after these are opened.
Where possible simply go for shelf-stable probiotics but be careful to do your research before buying.
Refrigerated Probiotics where to buy- Whole Foods, CVS & Walgreens
Nowadays, refrigerated probiotics are available both in the physical stores and the online market. However, the leading stores like Whole Foods , Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy are the ones that deserve a special mention. These are the most popular stores, where you can spot the authentic products of various popular brands. These stores are offering the facilities of online shopping too.
So, before we finish, it’s to be kept in mind that probiotics behave differently depending on their content. While some requires refrigeration, the others do not. It’s important to take your to find out which is the appropriate product according to your requirements.