Historical note Eating foods containing microorganisms to improve health has a long tradition. As far back as 1 908, Metchnikoff, the Nobel laureate, stated that 'ingested lactobacilli can displace toxin-producing bacteria, promoting health and prolonging life' (Elmer 2001). The term 'probiotics' was first coined in 1 965 in reference to substances produced by protozoa that stimulated the growth of other organisms. It has since been applied to those microorganisms found naturally in foods that are able to improve health by stimulating the growth of beneficial organisms. Although it has taken the most part of a century for scientists to investigate their health benefits, there are now several thousand studies on probiotics available on Medline, the majority published since 2000.

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