Now ideas for wellness

About Meiji

At a Glance

At a Glance

Get to know Meiji at a glance – from our core business to our most important numbers.


Our Nutrition Initiatives

Our Nutrition Initiatives

Our goal is to improve the lives of people of all ages around the world through nutrition, from infants to older adults, and we are dedicated to achieving this goal.



Medical needs are always diversifying – here's how Meiji is responding.

Wellness Stories

Fortify your health—Empower your gut barrier with lactic acid bacteria

May, 2024
photo of Kyosuke Kobayashi
Kyosuke Kobayashi

Research Team 2, Wellness Science Labs, Meiji Holdings Co., Ltd.

photo of Yun-Gi Kim, Ph.D.
Yun-Gi Kim, Ph.D.

Professor, Laboratory of Microbiology, Kitasato University School of Pharmacy

Depression, chronic heart failure, diabetes... Did you know these and numerous other diseases can be triggered by intestinal disorders?

Think of the parts of the human body involved in consumption and digestion such as the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Food exposes them to the outside world. Fortunately, the small and large intestines, which make up the "intestinal tract," are equipped to act as a barrier, preventing foreign materials, such as pathogens and toxic substances, from spreading throughout the body. When this function is compromised, pathogens and toxic substances can cause intestinal leakage and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, potentially leading to a variety of health issues.

To mitigate these health risks, The Meiji Group is researching the important role of LB81 lactic acid bacteria* to strengthen the intestinal barrier. We interviewed Kobayashi, a researcher at the Meiji Group, and Prof. Kim, a leading researcher on intestinal bacteria, who acts as an advisor on the project, about what they've learned and how to apply their findings to promote better health.

* Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus 2038, Streptococcus thermophilus 1131

—Most people have never heard of the "intestinal barrier." When and how did the research begin?

Kobayashi: The Meiji Group has conducted various joint research projects with the Institute Pasteur in France. In 2013, together we revealed that consumption of LB81 lactic acid bacteria increases the number of antibacterial peptides that kill pathogenic bacteria in the intestines. We presented those findings at the 40th anniversary event of Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt. Research members of the Meiji Group thought the function of LB81 lactic acid bacteria might be to strengthen the intestinal barrier, a critical factor in maintaining health and one that has gained attention in recent years, prompting our research.

Prof. Kim: Our intestines contain 100 trillion intestinal bacteria including hundreds of species. When the intestinal bacteria are in balance, they produce good metabolites, which strengthen the function of the intestinal barrier, enabling us to maintain good health. However, when the composition of intestinal bacteria experiences changes due to poor diet, lack of sleep, or excessive stress, the intestinal barrier deteriorates, which can lead to a variety of diseases. I myself was aware of the importance of strengthening the intestinal barrier, so when the Meiji Group approached me to work together on the research, I gladly accepted the offer.

We can contribute to the health of more people with the yogurt we offer if we understand the intestinal barrier and can clarify how LB81 lactic acid bacteria works. (Kobayashi)

Kobayashi: My goal has been to create new probiotics. I've wanted to discover how lactic acid bacteria positively impact the human body ever since I joined the company. I have been a research member of the intestinal barrier since the launch of the project in 2013. We started as a small, one-person operation and gradually built up to a team of six. We had been working on the project with the milestone of presenting our research results at the 50th anniversary of Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt in 2023.

Prof. Kim: I have been involved in this project since October 2018. My involvement includes giving my thoughts at regular progress briefings and discussing the data. While using my own findings as a basis, I am constantly exploring what I can do together with Mr. Kobayashi and the other researchers.

photo of Plates for cell culture

Plates for cell culture

photo of xperiments on a clean bench

Experiments on a clean bench

—What results have you achieved through your research activities over the past 10 years?

Kobayashi: We found that LB81 lactic acid bacteria has the ability to positively impact three functions of the intestinal barrier:

  1. Strengthening the Physical Barrier that prevents pathogens and harmful substances from spreading throughout the body—A protein called "tight junctions" firmly seals the epithelial cells that cover the surface of the intestinal tract. LB81 lactic acid bacteria prevents intestinal leakage by further contracting these tight junctions.
  2. Strengthening the Chemical Barrier that kills pathogens by intestinal epithelial cells—LB81 lactic acid bacteria activates immune cells and promotes the production of antimicrobial peptides that kill pathogenic bacteria and fortify the body's biological defense.
  3. Strengthening the Microbiological Barrier that inhibit infection by block pathogenic bacteria by intestinal bacteria and beneficial microorganisms—We found that LB81 lactic acid bacteria defends against campylobacter, a type of food-poisoning bacteria, which could infect intestinal epithelial cells.

Prof. Kim: We only know a part of the intestinal barrier's function, which has made researching it a challenge. That's why we were enthused about being able to clarify part of the mechanism by which LB81 lactic acid bacteria strengthens the intestinal barrier. The results of our research will be a useful resource for understanding and improving the function of the intestinal barrier in the future.

I was impressed by the diligence of the Meiji Group researchers in collecting data and accumulating findings during my involvement in the research.

figure of Three functions of the intestinal barrier

—Did you encounter any difficulties while working on your research?

Kobayashi: For the first five years of the project, we sometimes struggled to achieve the results we wanted with our small research team. However, through perseverance, we laid the foundation for our research. We were able to speed up our research once we increased the number of members and began working with Prof. Kim, who has a wealth of knowledge and extensive, diverse experience. We received sound advice whenever we consulted him.

I am able to lead research in the field of intestinal barriers together with the Meiji Group. (Prof. Kim)

photo of Yun-Gi Kim, Ph.D.

Prof. Kim: I believe it was difficult with all the trial and error in this research because the intestinal barrier had never been thoroughly understood before. Furthermore, there were times when we were not able to proceed with the research as we would have liked during the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel, however, that the level of our research has improved through the sincere efforts of each and every one of us. This is the result of the passion of all the researchers.

—What are your future goals in this research?

Kobayashi: We have been able to confirm at the cellular level that LB81 lactic acid bacteria has the ability to strengthen the intestinal barrier through our research to date. We believe that understanding the health benefits of LB81 lactic acid bacteria is significant. We would like to further clarify whether LB81 lactic acid bacteria is effective in humans and spread awareness of its positive effects.

photo of Kyosuke Kobayashi

Prof. Kim: There's still a lot more research to be done on the intestinal barrier in general, but it's becoming clear that its functions are essential to maintaining good health. We hope to build on this knowledge and get the word out that people can improve their intestinal barrier function with LB81 lactic acid bacteria, which is present in the Meiji's yogurt. I hope The Meiji Group will continue its research and keep creating products that fortify the intestinal barrier. I firmly believe that a strong intestinal barrier ultimately helps improve the body's ability to defend against depression, chronic heart failure, diabetes, and other debilitating illnesses.