I loved yogurt when yogurt wasn’t cool.
In fact, I grew up on a small dairy farm in Canada where our sole product was yogurt. My parents bought a cow (Daisy) “in an unguarded moment” and ended up having to get creative to get rid of all the extra milk that she produced for our family. One thing led to another – and I wound up as the VP of Sales and Marketing for a growing yogurt company taking Canada by storm. So when I saw today’s news release about Dannon being sued for exaggerated health claims for their yogurt, my dairy ears perked up.
First of all, if it’s true that Dannon is claiming that their yogurt has greater health benefits than other yogurts with active cultures, that’s false advertising.
I also think it’s pretty sneaky that they (allegedly) ran ad campaigns exaggerating the health benefits of yogurt, and then marked up their product by 30% to make consumers feel that they were getting added value from what was there all along. Typical big business move, right?
Secondly, yogurt bacteria do have beneficial uses (eating yogurt may decrease colon infection rates in hospitals, and can reduce the chance of vaginal yeast infections after antibiotic use). There is no conclusive evidence that yogurt treats or prevents diarrhea. However, it’s silly to extrapolate that these friendly bacteria will improve the health of your entire immune system – so you’ll never be sick – or that they will perfectly regulate your bowels – regardless of your underlying disease. As with many foods that have been shown to have some specific health benefits (green tea, blueberries, flax seeds) the media tends to blow them out of proportion.
And finally, what should you know about yogurt? Know that for those who are not allergic to milk products, it is a healthy nutritional option (especially the low fat variety without too much sugar) that may be especially important if you’re in the hospital or have received any antibiotics recently. Yogurt contains protein and calcium, which are important components of a healthy diet. But beyond this nutritional benefit (and the infection reduction in at-risk populations), I wouldn’t ascribe any particular magic powers to this tasty treat – as much as I’d like to.
1. Look for the “active cultures” sign on yogurt containers. The National Yogurt Association (NYA) established its own criteria for live and active culture yogurt in conjunction with its Live & Active Culture seal program. In order for manufacturers to carry the seal, refrigerated yogurt products must contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. Don’t pay extra for a yogurt because they have live cultures. The majority of them do!
2. Yogurt bacteria don’t live forever in your gut, so you’ll need to eat yogurt (or take active cultures) regularly to repopulate the colonies. I can’t find any data to support an exact consumption frequency. I guess it also depends on how many bacteria are contained in the yogurt or supplement you’re taking.
3. Acidophilus pills (one of the most popular yogurt bacterial strains) are available at health food stores for those who’d rather not eat yogurt but still want the benefits of the culture. These pills must be refrigerated to keep the culture alive (kind of like keeping milk cool) – and make sure you check the expiration date too. For more information on acidophilus, check out this supplement database.
4. The most common side effect of eating live yogurt cultures (in pill form or in yogurt form) is bloating and gas.
So don’t be surprised if you encounter it!
And I think that’s a nice thought to end on.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.