Probiotic ME-3 bacteria find their way into chocolate

ME-3, or the probiotic lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum, has formed part of the Estonian diet for 17 years as an ingredient in Hellus dairy products, and has also been available as a food supplement since 2014. Now these highly beneficial bacteria have found their way into chocolate, in a new product launched in March by the internationally renowned Estonian chocolate artisans Chocolala in cooperation with researchers from the University of Tartu.

ME-3 was discovered by a team of researchers led by Marika Mikelsaar and Mihkel Zilmer in 1995. The dairy product manufacturer Tere, in cooperation with researchers from the university, has developed an entire range of products containing ME-3 under the Hellus trademark. Food supplements which feature the beneficial bacterium can also be found in pharmacies in Estonia, France, Australia, the United States and elsewhere.

Microbiologists and human biochemists from the University of Tartu have continued with their research to determine further foodstuffs in which the bacterium can be put to use. In the course of their studies, one of the answers they have arrived at is chocolate.

“In creating the ingredients for this chocolate it was taken into account that its long-term consumption, in moderation of course, should be good for people’s health and help reduce health risks,” explained Mihkel Zilmer, professor of medical biochemistry at the University of Tartu. He added that eating chocolate containing ME-3 should still form part of a healthy lifestyle that involves sufficient physical exercise.

The first attempt at making ME-3 chocolate came in late 2019 when a souvenir product was released in cooperation with Chocolala to mark the university’s 100th anniversary.

Chocolala founder Kristi Lehtis says that developments in the food industry are dependent on the preferences of a large number of people and that innovative producers have to take into account that consumers are always looking for healthier, higher-quality chocolate. “We’re really glad that in working with the University of Tartu and leading scientists we’re able to offer people the best!” she said.

ME-3 is the only bacterium in the world which has two patented beneficial qualities: its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Research conducted in Estonia and abroad has proven that ME-3:

  • maintains and enriches the microbiota of the intestinal tract and increases the amount of useful bacteria;
  • boosts digestive efficiency;
  • supresses harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract;
  • protects against pathogens causing intestinal infections;
  • normalises the microbial balance of the gastrointestinal tract while and after taking antibiotics;
  • reduces oxidative stress throughout the body;
  • lowers cholesterol and protects against vascular calcification; and
  • supports the treatment of atopic dermatitis by reducing inflammation.

The ME-3 chocolate is currently on sale in the Chocolala store in the Old Town in Tallinn and in its online store.

For further information please contact:
Mihkel Zilmer, Professor of Medical Biochemistry, University of Tartu, +372 51 25 311,
Kristi Lehtis, Founder, Chocolala OÜ, +372 5565 4333,