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Filipina Turns Durian Into Probiotic Beer

It’s a breakthrough product, developed in Louisiana, and it’s the work of Davao food technologist Kriza Faye Calumba

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By Zea C. Capistrano

People are familiar with fruit-flavored beers. But has anybody thought of making a beer from durian?

Food technologist Kriza Faye Calumba, who hails from Davao City, is a beer lover who did not find it hard to make a healthy beer using durian possible.

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Kriza Faye Calumba

Calumba finished her master of science in nutrition and food sciences at Louisiana State University in Louisiana, US in 2019. She worked with her lab group on various research projects dealing with probiotics.

“We explored a new matrix as a delivery system for probiotic bacteria, in this case, beer,” she told Manila Bulletin.

Calumba works as assistant professor at the Department of Food Science and Chemistry at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao (UP Mindanao).

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She is a self-confessed beer lover who happens to be interested in lactic acid bacteria. For her undergraduate thesis, she investigated its biopreservative effect. This research was eventually recognized as the Best Undergraduate Thesis in 2014.

“For my master’s study, I applied similar bacteria as probiotics in beer,” she recalled.

Calumba obtained a bachelor’s degree in science and food technology at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao in 2014. She graduated magna cum laude. She was the class valedictorian.

Calumba was also an exchange student under the Temasek Foundation Leadership Enrichment and Regional Networking Program at the National University of Singapore, from August to December 2012.

In making the durian probiotic beer, Calumba and her team focused on the rind. They used the rind from the frozen Mornthong variety of durian, which they got from the Asian market in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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“Studies show that durian rind is rich in fiber that can be used to immobilize/protect probiotics. While previous research used nutrient-rich media such as milk, I explored the possibility of using beer,” said Calumba.

She said the beer they made was not “durian-flavored” per se. Calumba said the durian rind powder they used was only one percent of the immobilization process, which was “just enough to confer protection to the microorganisms.”

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Calumba shared that in order to make the durian probiotic beer, they first brew ale beer using the facilities at LSU. After two weeks of fermentation, they added the probiotic bacteria both in free and immobilized states.

“Immobilization meant entrapping them within a matrix to serve as protection. In this case, the protectant was durian rind powder. The beer was then bottled and stored at ambient temperature,” Calumba explained.

It took more than half a year for her and her team to determine the right ingredient formulation. Their formula consisted of malt, water, hops, and yeast. They also had to figure out the brewing and fermentation processes to ensure the probiotic bacteria thrived in the beer.

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“The entire process was very challenging with numerous obstacles along the way, but the valuable guidance and support of my lab mates, major adviser, family, and friends were a huge motivation,” she said.

Although the group did not perform a cost analysis, their probiotic beer “might cost more because of the presence of probiotics, which require appropriate production conditions,” said Calumba.

“Yet this novel product should have health-promoting benefits compared to the beers already available in the market.”

She explained that probiotic products provide gastrointestinal health benefits. “They can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improve our immune system. Since alcoholic drinks have been linked to disruption of gut microbiota balance, beer with probiotics could be a therapeutic avenue,” she said, adding that the durian rind powder used “can also provide other benefits such as acting as a bulking agent for easing defecation.”

Calumba said making probiotic beer made from durian available in the market “would be a breakthrough. Aside from emphasizing the possibility of creating healthier beer, this endeavor also stresses the need to explore adding value to our fruit by-products,” she said.

She thought of the durian fruit because she “always had the desire to conduct research on giving value to the currently underutilized and unutilized resources in the country. I thought of durian because Davao is the center of durian production in the Philippines, so a large amount of waste is generated from its consumption,” she said.

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