The bacteria Bifidobacterium animalis is considered an essential part of the human body. This organism is is called a type of probiotic, or bacteria that works to promote a healthy digestive tract. Eating foods that contain this "good" bacteria can provide a number of health benefits. It is known to stop harmful bacteria from growing in the digestive system and may be helpful in preventing colds, infections, and some forms of cancer.
Bifidobacterium animalis is a bacteria that naturally makes its home in the human body. It lives in the large intestines and is necessary for food digestion. The function of the bacteria deals with space and food consumption. The bacteria attach themselves to the walls of the intestines and limit the amount of nutrients available to other organisms. This is beneficial to the body in that there is no food left for any harmful bacteria that is trying to grow.
In addition to preventing harmful bacteria from growing, it also produces acid in the intestines, decreasing the overall pH level in the digestive tract. This also prevents bacteria that likes to grow at higher pH levels from thriving. Individuals who lack sufficient amounts of this particular bacteria are typically more prone to infection or digestive problems.
It is possible to keep the levels of Bifidobacterium animalis at a higher level by ingesting products that contain this bacteria, labeled as probiotic items. Typically yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy products contain this bacteria, as it can survive in the acidic conditions of dairy products. Research has shown that eating foods containing probiotics may help to reduce intestinal inflammation and decrease levels of harmful bacteria.
Bifidobacterium animalis also produces a B vitamin that is important for liver function. The bacteria is thought to have cancer fighting properties. Harmful bacteria can convert nitrates to nitrites, which have been found to potentially increase cancer risk. It is thought that preventing harmful bacteria will reduce the risk of developing cancer due to this type of nitrite formation.
There are also several health supplements that contain Bifidobacterium animalis. Scientists have found that the bacteria in these supplements do not stick to the intestinal walls. Users instead receive benefits as the bacteria travels through the digestive system, though effects are not long lasting.
Supplements were found in some studies to reduce the risk of catching a cold or influenza viruses. More than 84 percent of children that took two supplements a day found a decrease in the number of cold symptoms. This research seems to support the theory that bacteria does have an effect on cold symptoms in addition to maintaining proper digestive health.