The term 'beer belly' has a whole new meaning thanks to researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS), who have developed a probiotic beer that boosts the immune system and promotes a healthy stomach.
The new invention was a daunting task according to the inventor, who says that hops used in beer create an inhospitable environment for probiotics.
"The health benefits of probiotics are well known. While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics," said Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, the undergraduate researcher at NUS who picked probiotic beer as her final-year project - and claim to a Nobel Prize if beer connoisseurs have their way.
The healthy brew is made with the probiotic strain Lactobacillus paracasei L26, which regulates the immune system and neutralizes toxins as well as viruses. The strain also gives the suds a sharp, tarty flavor.
"For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic micro-organism. It will utilize sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavours. The final product, which takes around a month to brew, has an alcohol content of about 3.5 per cent," explained Chan.
Her supervisor - Dr. Liu Shao Quan - added that the project is the perfect marriage of the craft beer movement with health-food trends.
"The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine's invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy."
When those healthy ales hit shelves is up to the researchers, who have patented probiotic beer to protect their recipe. So it looks like Chain's post-graduate project will be raking in the dough with her healthy suds.