5 things to consider before you buy expensive “probiotic” yoghurt
Posted 30th September 2016 by Jane Williams
Although yoghurt by itself is a nutritious food which contains calcium for bone health, many yoghurts on the market advertise themselves as “probiotic” yoghurts, and are sometimes up to 3-4 times as expensive as non-probiotic yoghurts. Is it really worth the extra expense and how do you choose which one to buy?
There is ample evidence from clinical trials that some specific bacterial or yeast strains have profound effects on preventing or treating various diseases, but not every probiotic strain is equally effective for every disease. Some strains are better for preventing diarrhoea associated with antibiotic use, some are better for controlling chronic diseases.
I’ve put together a list of five simple tips for you to consider before you buy.
1. Know why you want to use it
Probiotics are best used when the normal bacterial microflora (in your intestines or on your skin for example, which are very protective and active against pathogenic or disease-causing organisms), have been disrupted by antibiotic use, medications, or stress. Probiotics should not be used like daily vitamins. You don’t need to take them every day because your normal microflora is there to protect you. However, if you have a chronic intestinal condition or if you think you will be in a situation wherein your normal microflora will be disrupted, you might want to consider using some probiotic strains.
2. Link why you want to use it with a specific probiotic strain or mixture of probiotic strains
It is important to know which probiotic strains are effective for the use with which you want to use it. Not all probiotic strains are equally effective for all diseases.
3. Have any living probiotic strains been added to the yoghurt?
Yoghurts are typically made using two bacterial strains – Streptococcus thermophiles or Lactobacillus bulgaricus – to ferment milk into yoghurt. However, most scientific studies have failed to show any probiotic activity of these two strains. You need to read the label to see if other effective strains of bacteria or yeast have been added to the yoghurt. Just containing these two strains does not make it a ‘probiotic’ product or make it effective for any health benefits over and above regular yoghurt.
4. Are the probiotic strains alive?
Be sure to check to see if the yoghurt is pasteurized, as this process kills the bacteria and may well render probiotic strains ineffective. Check if it has been heat-treated and if the probiotic strains were added before or afterwards.
5. Does the label contain the required information?
If it is a probiotic yoghurt, it should have basic information required for dietary supplements such as the daily dose, strains contained in the yoghurt and an FDA disclaimer stating this product does not treat, cure, diagnose or mitigate disease. Also, is the manufacturer listed? Most major manufacturers have good quality control measures in place. If the manufacturer is not listed, you really don’t know what you are buying.
Lynne McFarland has been a Clinical Epidemiologist for 28 years. Her research is focused on the epidemiology of Clostridium difficile infections and the clinical uses of probiotics for various disease indications. She has co-authored/edited two books and written 13 book chapters about probiotics, has over 140 peer-reviewed publications and has been a reviewer for 80 medical journals. She is speaking at the Probiotics Congress: USA.
Did I miss something? Let me know if you have any tips to add.