The Key for Healthy Longevity ~Lactic Fermentation Products~
Biogenics Therapy
Tomotari Mitsuoka, Emeritus Professor of The University of Tokyo

Biogenics Therapy by Lactic Fermentation Products

History of Lactic Acid Fermentation Products

The foods, which are made from milk fermented by lactic acid bacteria, have been taken in the area from Europe to Asia and a part of Africa as outstanding preservative foods having health effects since prehistoric era. The typical fermented milks in the world include: Villi (Scandinavia); Kefir and Koumiss (Russia); Yogurt (Eastern Europe); Ayran (Turkey); Dahi (India and Nepal).

At the beginning of the 20th century Ellie Metchnikoff (1845-1916, winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize for physiology) advocated the beneficial effects of lactic acid bacteria. He discovered that Bulgarians had average life span of 87 years and that the Bulgarian diet constituted mainly of cultured milk products. Thus, he hypothesized that the consumption of large quantities of live lactic acid bacteria in yogurt suppressed the multiplication of putrefactive bacteria in the large intestine, and prevented aging and shortening of life. This is the “theory of longevity by yogurt”.

Studies afterwards, however, revealed that the lactic acid bacteria in yogurt which he commended L. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, were not capable of surviving in the intestine, this finding led to the dismissal of his so-called “theory of longevity by yogurt”.

In 1920s, attempt were made to produce yogurt using lactic acid bacteria capable of surviving in the intestine, and fermented milk products such as "Acidophilus milk", "Reform-yogurt" and “Aco-yogurt” became popular in the United States and European countries. However, even these lactic acid bacteria could not establish and grow in the human intestine. In 1960s it was discovered that the number of the bifidobacteria is much higher than L. acidophilus in the human intestine. Thus, fermented milks using bifidobacteria were developed on market in Germany in 1968 and also in Japan in 1977.

In 5th century, cows milk used in Japan. The techniques for processing cow’s milk transmitted from Kudara (Korea) arrived in Japan and used. Around 6th century, national stock-farms were founded in all over the country and processed goods, such as “Raku” , “So”, and “Daigo” were produced. “Raku” is recognized as yogurt of the day. In 1919, Unkai Mishima started to sell a pasteurized sour milk drink “Calpis”, after getting the idea from Koumis in Mongol. Such beverages, which we poured water to rich liquid food and diluted for dinking, were widely distributed as original Japanese ones.

On the other hand, Kakutaro Masagaki, who was affected Metchnikoff’s theory of longevity by yogurt started the business of yoguhrt as “Tenjukai” for the first time in Japan after getting cooperation of his son “Kazuyoshi Masagaki in 1914.  In 1924, they brought onto the market a rich fermented milk “Elie”, which was fermented milk for 120 hours using L. bulgaricus, L. acidophillus, Lactococcus sp. and yeasts.  Afterward, they increased the bacterial species used increased from 4 kinds to 8 kinds.  Furthermore, they increased the bacterial species to 16 kinds at the end of WWII.

Minoru Shirota, who was involved in culturing lactic acid bacteria in a laboratory of the University of Kyoto, and started manufacturing and selling a lactic acid bacteria milk beverage under the name “Shirota-Hogokin-Fukyu-kai”.

In 1945, Kazuyoshi Masagaki started the development using 16 kinds of lactic acid bacteria and culture media of soybeans under the direction of priest Kohzui Ohtani of Honganji.  In 1932, he succeeded to develop the lactic acid bacteria secretions and extraction of the cell components, and in 1934, started the production and selling of “Chitsuh”. Although there are various kinds of lactic fermentation products at present, the bacterial species used and the manufacturing method are hardly disclosed. In 1955, Minoru Shirota started manufacturing and selling of “Yakult” using L. casei (formerly called L. acidophilus) isolated from human intestine.