Food and Nutrition

Does Probiotic Yogurt Really Keep You Regular?

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Several yogurt brands enrich their products with probiotics, bacterial cultures that are touted as helping to keep the digestive system regular and prevent constipation – a familiar ailment, now that many Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diets. But do these yogurts work?

In 2010, Dannon settled a lawsuit claiming that they used false advertising to promote their Activia and DanActive probiotic yogurts. A judge in Cleveland ruled that Dannon must pay consumers up to $45 million in damages for claiming that their yogurts were “clinically” and “scientifically” proven to regulate the digestive system and boost immunity.

Until November of last year, customers could claim up to $100 in rebate checks from Dannon. Dannon was also required to remove the words "clinically" and "scientifically proven" from their advertising, and substitute words such as “clinical studies show.” They must also include a disclaimer saying that the yogurts aren’t treatments or cures for any medical condition.

ABC News interviewed gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa for a 2010 article on probiotic yogurt: Rajapaksa said that probiotics’ effects simply haven’t been studied enough for Dannon to claim they regulate digestion.

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Still, probiotic yogurts remain on the market – which means someone must be buying them. Though DanActive and Activia no longer claim they’re scientifically proven to cure constipation, they still cite studies that indicate the products may help regulate digestion. They also still contain probiotics like bifidus regularis and L. casei defensis.

Yoplait’s YoPlus contains both bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12, a probiotic, and inulin, a source of natural fiber which may help regularity when consumed daily. La Yogurt, by Johanna Foods, contains the probiotic Bifidobacterium BB-12®. In the wake of the Dannon lawsuit, none of these brands claim they’re proven to work; they also are careful to state that the health benefits of probiotics only take effect when they’re eaten with – um – regularity.

What do consumers have to say about the effectiveness of these products? Reviewers at the web site Viewpoints.com gave DanActive a 4.23 rating out of a possible 5. Positive comments included, “It keeps my digestive system on track,” and “Since drinking this product, my digestive system has never been this good.” A less satisfied reviewer reported, “I had the runs…Don’t take this stuff if you have a sensitive tummy.”

On a site called Probiotics: Love That Bug, Activia drinkers either loved or hated their results. Some reported they were more regular than they’d been in years: others experienced cramping, nausea and diarrhea.

It seems the jury is still out on probiotic yogurt’s effectiveness with regard to digestive regularity, in both the scientific and consumer arenas. The only consistent advice seems to be this: if probiotic yogurts work for you, consume them often to maintain positive results.

Originally published at GrannyMed