Research on Functional Ingredients


Supporting health of all age groups, from infants to the elderly with Morinaga Milk's well-researched Bifidobacteria

History of bifidobacteria research began from our dedication for infant health

Morinaga Milk Industry launched Morinaga Dry Milk for infants in 1921. For more than 100 years, Morinaga has been at the forefront of research on breast milk and infant health as well as development of infant formula.
Our research was inspired by the fact that bifidobacteria are the predominant bacteria residing in the intestines of breastfed infants.

History of bifidobacteria

Fermenter vessel for culturing bacteria
Fermenter vessel for culturing bacteria

As of Sepember 2022, bifidobacteria are classified into more than 100 types. Since the discovery of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 in 1969, we have been engaged in research on Bifidobacterium breve M-16V, a type of bifidobacteria that lives in the large intestines of breast-fed infants. Also, we have been conducting research and development on various beneficial bacteria.

There are many types of bifidobacteria, but the types that live in humans and the types that live in animals are clearly distinct. Based on the idea that bifidobacteria derived from humans are better suited for products to be consumed by humans, we use human-residential bifidobacteria in our products.

Bifidobacteria research over the past half century

Discovered Bifidobacterium longum BB536
Launched fermented milk containing bifidobacteria
Launched dairy-based lactic acid bacteria beverage containing bifidobacteria
Began export of technology for production of yogurt containing bifidobacteria to Europe
Established a licensing agreement for the production of bacteria in Germany; began sales internationally
Received Japanese government approval to market Morinaga Yogurt containing live bifidobacteria as a FOSHU (Food for Specified Health Uses)
Obtained FDA GRAS Notification for Bifidobacterium longum BB536 for use in General Foods (first in the world for use of bifidobacteria in general food)
  • Received the the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry (JSBBA) Award for Achievement in Technological Research for Technology of fermented milk with high cell number and improved surviability of bifidobacteria
  • Obtained FDA GRAS Notification for Bifidobacterium breve M-16V for use in Infant Formula and General Foods
  • Received recognition as Infant Nutrition Ingredient of the Year at the NutraIngredients-Asia Awards for Bifidobacterium breve M-16V, the first product from a Japanese company to receive such recognition
  • Received the Food Immunology Industry Award from the Japanese Association for Food Immunology in recognition of the many years of research and activities related to Bifidobacterium longum BB536
  • Obtained FDA GRAS Notification for Bifidobacterium longum BB536 for use in Infant Formula
  • Won the 2020 NutraIngredients-Asia Award under the category of ‘Editors’ Award for the Infant & Child Nutrition of the Year’
  • Obtained the Registration of "New Food Ingredient" in China for Use of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 in Infant and Toddler Foods
  • Obtained FDA GRAS Notification for Bifidobacterium infantis M-63 for use in Infant Formula and General Foods

Relationship between bifidobacteria and gut microbiota through all age groups

In 1899, Dr. Henry Tissier of the Pasteur Institute in France discovered bifidobacteria in the stool of an infant. Some of the bifidobacteria had a Y-shaped morphoplogy. Because this shape resembled that of a branch, bifidobacteria was given its name from the Latin word meaning branch. The bacterium itself is so small (1/1000 of a millimeter) that it must be viewed under a microscope as it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Bifidobacteria live mainly in the large intestine of humans and animals. The bacteria, which are sensitive to oxygen, survive on the dietary fiber that cannot be digested by humans before reaching the large intestine. It can be said that bifidobacteria have evolved by adapting to the environment of the large intestine. A major characteristic of bifidobacteria is their production of acetic acid within the large intestine. Since acetic acid has a bactericidal effect against pathogenic bacteria, the acetic acid produced by bifidobacteria is thought to play an important role in maintaining the proper intestinal environment.

Bifidobacterium longum BB536
Bifidobacterium longum BB536

Important impact of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 on human health

Bifidobacterium longum BB536 has been found to have an intestinal regulating effect. A group of 39 women suffering from constipation was given 100g of yogurt containing Bifidobacterium longum BB536 (over 2 billion cells) daily for two weeks. The result shows that the proportion of bifidobacteria increased in the intestines of the women subjects as did the number of defecation. (see figure)
Such effects have been demonstrated in multiple clinical trials which include yogurt and lactic acid beverages containing Bifidobacterium longum BB536 that are designated as FOSHU (Food for Specified Health Uses)

Differences in intestinal regulation due to yogurt intake

In recent years, Bifidobacterium longum BB536 has also been used in foods with functional claims to help reduce nasal discomfort caused by pollen, dust, house dust, and so forth as well as to improve the intestinal environment and improve the bowel movements of people with constipation. Currently, we are also conducting research on other health functions that may associate with gut health.

Information on Bifidobacterium breve M-16V, which is provided as food to pediatric medical institutions both domestically and internationally under the supervision of doctors.

Bifidobacterium breve M-16V is a type of bacterium that is especially common in infants. The formation of gut microbiota in low birth weight infants* is delayed due to various factors. It has been confirmed that ingestion of Bifidobacterium breve M-16V promotes the formation of gut microbiota rich in bifidobacteria and helps the infant's health development.*Low birth weight infant: An infant whose weight at birth is less than 2,500g. It has been pointed out that low birth weight infant often require medical care even after birth as there is a high risk of disabilities such as growth or development retardation as well as health risks that extend into adulthood.

Bifidobacterium breve M-16V
Bifidobacterium breve M-16V

Bifidobacterium breve

We have been providing Bifidobacterium breve M-16V to medical institutions nationwide in Japan for more than 25 years.
Currently Bifidobacterium breve M-16V is provided free of charge to more than 150 facilities throughout the country (as of November 2021) including neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and pediatric clinics, to support the health of babies. In addition, the effectiveness of Bifidobacterium breve M-16V has been disseminated widely domestically and overseas through academic societies, scientific papers, and treatises. Since 2012, Bifidobacterium breve M-16V has been used in NICUs in Australia and in recent years it is also being used in NICUs in New Zealand and Singapore.
After obtaining the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) notification - a designation given to food ingredients that have achieved safety standards, Bifidobacterium breve M-16V has been widely used as an infant probiotic globally.


Gut microbiota and bifidobacteria

Hundreds of species, about 40 trillion bacteria, exist in our intestine.
In recent years, many studies have been published pointing out that gut microbiota also affect systemic organs and are associated with obesity, immune response, etc. Maintaining a well-balanced gut microbiota is considered to be the key to good health.
Morinaga Milk focuses on bifidobacteria in its study of the infant gut microbiota to better understand how to develop better infant formula. From the 2000s, the newest developments in technology made it possible to comprehensively investigate the entire gut microbiota rather than cultivating and investigating each type of gut bacteria one by one.

Bifidobacterium research

Research is still being actively pursued all over the world and we at Morinaga also continue our research on the relationship between gut microbiota and health as well as the effect of bifidobacteria on gut microbiota.

The globally well-known bifidobacteria

Since the discovery of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 in the gut of a breastfed infant more than 50 years ago in 1969, we have been engaged in research on bifidobacteria and gut microbiota. Morinaga Milk is the number one in the world* for the number of scientific papers published about the bifidobacteria that live in the human intestine. Bifidobacteria support the health of people of all ages – from infants to the elderly. The use of bifidobacteria is highly evaluated not only in Japan but also overseas for helping to maintain the health and smiles of people around the world.

*According to Metabologenomics, Inc. (Metagen) As of 2019, the number of scientific papers in the pharmaceutical database is the largest in the world.