The objective of this study was to evaluate the functional properties of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) from kimchi, a traditional Korean fermented vegetable product generally consumed raw as a side-dish with practically every meal. Twelve mild acid producing facultatively heterofermentative Lactobacillus strains were selected for their potential as starter cultures for fermentation of kimchi, and evaluated for their functional properties. Eleven strains were identified as Lactobacillus sakei and one as Lactobacillus plantarum. The strains identified as L. sakei differed in some physiological features; of particular interest was the fact that 9 of these strains produced L(+) lactic acid from glucose in presence of acetate. All strains were able to survive gastrointestinal conditions simulating stomach and duodenum passage. In addition, they showed higher adherence to HT-29 cells than Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, a commercial probiotic strain used worldwide. These strains also showed antimicrobial activity against a number of food-borne pathogens. Their ability to lower cholesterol was demonstrated by BSH (bile salt hydrolytic) activity, and cholesterol assimilation tests in vitro. The results suggest the probiotic potential of these strains for use in kimchi fermentation.
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