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    Archive for the ‘lactobacillus’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Live, Active Cultures in Yogurt

    YogurtWhen I’m buying yogurt, should I only look for brands that contain Acidophilus?

    Or am I better off buying brands that have probiotics or live cultures?

    — Marisa (last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    As if the wide array of brands and flavors wasn’t enough to confuse the yogurt shopper, now there’s all these health claims to sort through!

    First of all, the absolute best yogurt you can buy is plain, unsweetened yogurt.  Most flavoreds yogurt have six or seven teaspoons of added sugar (that “fruit on the bottom” is pure sugar, not real fruit with fiber and phytonutrients.)

    If plain yogurt is too sour for your tastes, you can always sweeten it at home (with fruit, vanilla or coconut extracts, or even just one or two teaspoons of your sweetener of choice.)

    As for probiotics and cultures, let’s clarify that tangled web:

    • Probiotics is the name given to microorganisms that closely resemble the “friendly”/healthy bacteria that live in our colon (prebiotics, meanwhile, are components in certain foods that feed these “critters”) and have beneficial health effects.
    • In other words — and this is important — while all probiotics are bacteria, not all bacteria are probiotics
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus is a “hot” probiotic mainly because it has been the focus of the most studies; its efficacy is well documented
    • Many probiotics have not undergone sufficient testing.  One concern is that some are rendered useless when they come in contact with stomach acids
    • Additionally, most probiotics need refrigeration to survive.  Probiotics in shelf-stable foods have a minimal chance of surviving by the time they make it to your pantry

    When it comes to buying yogurts, there are four things to keep in mind to ensure you are getting as much probiotic bang for your buck as possible:

    1. Buy yogurts that contain “live and active cultures.”  This usually means the cultures are added AFTER the milk has been pasteurized.  If they are added before pasteurization, they are killed by the heat.  Yogurts that only claim to “be made with live cultures” may fall into the latter category
    2. Look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA)’s Live & Active Cultures seal.  FYI: The NYA is “a national non-profit trade organization whose… Live & Active Culture seal, which appears on refrigerated and frozen yogurt containers, helps you recognize those products containing significant amounts of live and active cultures.”  The seal is voluntary, so its absence does not necessarily imply a lack of live and active cultures
    3. Although there are many strains of probiotics, acidophilus is considered the “golden” one because it has been well researched.  We know, for instance, that unlike other probiotics, acidophilus is not destroyed by stomach acids
    4. Lactobacillus Bifidobacteria has also been well-researched, and is also believed to survive the digestive process

    Aren’t you glad you asked?

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    You Ask, I Answer: Probiotic Cereal

    I loved your video about deceptive food advertising!

    So what do you think of Kashi’s “Vive” cereal?

    There is a banner on the box claiming it’s probiotic and helps with “digestive wellness.”

    Is that true? If it is, how does it make it better than other cereals?

    — Joanne Castro
    Santa Fe, NM

    Let’s first begin by talking about probiotics.

    That’s the name given to beneficial bacteria living in our colons that help keep harmful bacteria from multiplying and starting problems (FYI: prebiotics are compounds in food that help feed probiotics.)

    We harbor anywhere from 370 – 450 different stands of probiotic bacteria in our colon.

    Although we produce and house them, it is believed poor nutrition can significantly reduce their numbers.

    Antibiotics, meanwhile, kill all bacteria — including probiotics.

    The most famous probiotic, of course, is Lactobacillus acidophilus, the probiotic contained in many yogurts.

    Allow me to digress a little and say the following: heat treatment can destroy Lactobacillus Acidophilus.

    So, the closest way to ensure you are getting beneficial bacteria is via a “Live and Active Cultures” statement (although this does not guarantee said cultures are starter bacteria.)

    What many people don’t realize is that all fermented foods — not just yogurt — contain probiotics, including tempeh (fermented soy), blue cheese, sauerkraut, and wine.

    The largest body of research on probiotics has focused on the therapeutic effect they have on diarrhea developed as a result of taking antibiotics.

    Other than that, a lot of the health-promoting properties attributed to probiotics in food are yet to be discovered, or at least confirmed by science.

    Although I can understand the link between probiotics and immune health (mainly since beneficial bacteria are a good defense against harmful varieties,) claims by some supplement companies of helping lower cancer risk are, as of now, completely baseless.

    One main problem with probiotic food research is that many strands are destroyed by stomach acids before they even reach the large intestine.

    So, how they perform in a laboratory setting does not necessarily reflect what takes place in our bodies.

    Additionally, only a handful of probiotic strands have been closely studied.

    It is also worth pointing out that in order for probiotics to have any sort of impact — assuming the strand in Vive does — they need to be consumed on a daily basis. So, a bowl of Vive three times a week isn’t really going to do much for you.

    In any case, the particular probiotic present in Vive is strain LA14 of Lacto acidophilus.

    Kashi’s official statement is that this cereal contains 109 colony forming units of said probiotic per serving of Vive.

    Sounds great. But, although this strand survives the digestive process, there have not been any studies examining specific health benefits.

    While it certainly won’t do you any harm, no one really knows what exactly you are supposed to gain from eating Vive regularly (“aids with digestive wellness” is too broad a statement for me.)

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