Recent advances in intestinal microbiota research are the background for the appearance of functional foods. Lactic fermentation products are included in the functional foods and classified into 3 groups based on their mechanisms of action: probiotics, prebiotics and biogenics. Probiotics are viable microorganisms, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, that beneficially affect the host by improving the intestinal bacterial balance. Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients, such as oligosaccharides and dietary fiber, that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth or activities of beneficial intestinal bacteria in the colon and thus improve the health of the hosts. Biogenics are biologically active peptides, including immunopotentiators (biological response modifier: BRM), plant flavonoids, etc. They act directly or indirectly through modulation of intestinal microbiota on the health of the hosts. Thus, functional foods enhance bioregulation such as stresses, appetite and absorption; biodefence, such as immunity and suppression of allergies; prevent diseases, including diarrhea, constipation, cancer, cholesterolemia and diabetes; and suppress aging through immunostimulation as well as suppression of mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, oxidation processes, intestinal putrefaction, and cholesterolemia.
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