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8 Lactobacillus GG Fermented Whey and Human Health

Seppo Salminen and Kari Salminen

Traditionally, whey has been a troublesome waste product at cheese factories. New uses have now been developed for cheese whey to utilize the whey nutrients, including protein and carbohydrates.

Fermented milk products have been reported to have an important role in the treatment of infant diarrhea in malnourished children (1,2). More recently, Isolauri and co-workers (3) have shown in a double-blind controlled trial that Lactobacillus GG bacteria promote recovery from acute diarrhea in children. These results suggest that whey-based products may be used in this application.

A process for manufacturing a fermented flavored whey drink has been developed that combines the nutritional properties of whey and the health benefits of Lactobacillus strain GG. The objective has been to improve the utilization of whey through use of a scientifically selected Lactobacillus strain with proven health benefits. For this purpose, demineralized lactose-hydrolyzed whey concentrate has been fermented with Lactobacillus GG. Whey and lactic acid bacteria have thus been combined to provide a wholesome and nutritious beverage.


Important steps in whey processing are the hydrolysis of lactose and demineralization to remove excess salt. A continuous whey hydrolysis process has been developed using immobilized beta-galactosidase enzyme. This process is more economical than batch hydrolysis. Lactose hydrolysis is important for lactose-intolerant populations and for malnourished children. Malnourished children may experience worsening of acute diarrhea when lactose is given during treatment (1). Salt removal can be completed using an ion exchange process. After concentration to 60 percent dry matter, a hydrolyzed demineralized whey syrup is obtained that has a good shelf life and a pleasant rich taste.


Lactobacillus cased strain GG (Lactobacillus GG) is a new Lactobacillus strain that is of human origin and has been shown to colonize the intestinal tract (4). This strain was originally isolated from a healthy human volunteer based on its ability to tolerate acid and bile, to produce an antimicrobial substance, and to adhere to human intestinal cells (5,6). It is among the first strains with clinically proven health benefits in various intestinal disorders in adults, children, and infants. The most important evidence of its health benefits comes from studies of infant diarrhea. Isolauri and co-workers (3) published the first study on infant rotavirus diarrhea in which the duration of diarrhea was reduced by 50 percent through the use of either freeze-dried Lactobacillus GG or Lactobacillus GG fermented milk products.


A new fermented flavored whey drink has been manufactured from demineralized lactose-hydrolyzed whey concentrate using Lactobacillus GG. It is a low-lactose product that contains no fat and is lightly sweetened with fructose. It has special sensory characteristics - smooth texture, mild acidity, and the rich taste from whey. Fruit juices or fruit flavoring have been used to modify the flavor to appeal to different people.

Fermentation of whey may also influence lactose content when suitable bacteria are used. Additionally, whey proteins may undergo slight changes to ease their digestibility. The end product may offer alternatives for people not currently attracted to fermented milks.


This development in whey processing offers new alternatives for utilizing cheese by-products and applies new technologies to nutritionally important products. Combining whey processing with lactobacilli that have been obtained using new selection methods may prove to be beneficial to human health in many intestinal imbalances. It may also offer possibilities in utilizing new technologies in food production in different cultures and in providing nutritionally attractive foods from low-value by-products.


1. Bhan, M. K., S. Sazawal, S. Bhatnagar, B. L. Jailkhani, and N. Arora. 1989. Efficacy of yoghurt in comparison to milk in malnourished children with acute diarrhea. Pp. 229-232 in: Les laits fermentes: Actualite de la recherche. U.K. John Libbey Eurotext Ltd.

2. Boudraa, G., M. Touhami, P. Pochard, R. Soltana, J. Y. Mary, and J. F. Desjeux. 1990. Effect of feeding yogurt versus milk in children with persistent diarrhea. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 11:409-512.

3. Isolauri, E., M. Juntunen, T. Rautanen, P. Sillanaukee, and T. Koivula. 1991. A human Lactobacillus strain (Lactobacillus cased strain GG) promotes recovery from acute diarrhea in children. Pediatrics 88:90-97.

4. Saxelin, M., S. Elo, S. Salminen, and H. Vapaatalo. 1990. Dose response colonisation of faeces after oral administration of Lactobacillus cased strain GG. Microbial Ecology 4:209-214.

5. Silva, M., N. Jacobus, C. F. Deneke, and S. Gorbach. 1987. Antimicrobial substance from a human Lactobacillus strain. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 31:1231-1233.

6. Elo, S., M. Saxelin, and S. Salminen. 1991. Attachment of Lactobacillus cased strain GG to human colon carcinoma cell line Caco-2: Comparison with other dairy strains. Letters on Applied Microbiology 13:154-156.

7. Siitonen, S., H. Vapaatalo, S. Salminen, A. Gordin, M. Saxelin, R. Wikberg, and A.M. Kirkkola. 1990. Effect of Lactobacillus GG yoghurt in prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhoea. Annales Medicinae 22:57-60.