The potential of bifidobacteria as a source of natural folate


Thomas Andlid, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering/Food Science, Chalmers University of Technology, SE - 412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden. E-mail:


Aims:  To screen 19 strains of bifidobacteria for main folate forms composition in synthetic folate-free and complex folate-containing media.

Methods and Results:  HPLC was used to analyse deconjugated folates extracted from bacterial biomass. Most strains had a total folate content above 4000 μg per 100 g dry matter (DM). The highest value of 9295 μg per 100 g DM was found in Bifidobacterium catenulatum ATCC 27539 and the lowest in Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. animalis ATCC 25527 containing 220 μg per 100 g DM. Ten strains grew in a synthetic folate-free medium (FFM), showing folate autotrophy and suggesting folate auxotrophy of the remaining nine. In the autotrophic strains, a consistently higher folate level was found in FFM as compared to a more complex folate-containing medium, suggesting reduced requirements for folates in the presence of growth factors otherwise requiring folates for synthesis. The contents of total folate, 5-CH3-H4folate and H4folate were strain dependent. 5-CH3-H4folate dominated in most strains.

Conclusions:  Our results show that bifidobacteria folate content and composition is dynamic, is strain specific and depends on the medium. Suitable selection of the growth conditions can result in high levels of folate per cell unit biomass.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  This suggests that certain bifidobacteria may contribute to the folate intake, either directly in foods, such as fermented dairy products, or in the intestine as folate-trophic probiotics or part of the natural microbiota.