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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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    2 Comments

    1. Nour El-Zibdeh said on January 7th, 2010

      Thanks Andy! I like it.
      Can you share with me your resources? I want to read more about probiotics/prebiotics.

      Nour

    2. Lauren Slayton said on March 5th, 2010

      Very good post. While I promote regular intake of probiotics, curious about you mentioning the need to have them daily. Would love to hear more about that if you could. Thank you.

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