Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Probiotics/Yogurt Expert: What Every Consumer Should Know

Dannon was recently sued over its probiotics claims. Below, please find some answers from Natasha – whose family introduced natural Bulgarian-style yogurt to America in the 60’s - concerning commonly asked questions about probiotics.

Probiotics Questionnaire: Natasha Trenev

1. How long can probiotics stay un-refrigerated until they lose their potency?

There is really no way to guarantee the potency of probiotics if they have been without refrigeration at any time. When probiotic products are shipped without refrigeration, they can be exposed to very high temperatures: in a warehouse with no AC, left in the sun, or left in a hot truck. Since probiotics are living organisms, you can only be guaranteed of their potency if they have been shipped to you refrigerated and stored refrigerated. There is no data to substantiate that a product would not lose its potency in transport. Natren products are refrigerated from manufacturing and throughout the entire shipping process.

2. What is the difference between high-quality probiotic supplements and Bifidus "Regularis" and L. casei "Defensis"?

Bifidus “Regularis” is a fictitious name. L. casei – (Lactobacilus casei) is a species scientific name but “Defensis” is not identified as a strain. These names are created for marketing purposes. Because these names don’t signify anything scientific, we don’t know what species is contained in the supplement let alone what strain. You cannot even compare it to known strains in order to verify potency, dosage, and interaction between other bacteria, because the name signifies nothing. Interestingly enough, these names aren’t even allowed on product labels in Canada. In order to be sold in Canada, companies must reveal the scientific name on the packaging.

3. How do the probiotics in a food, say yogurt, work?

Yogurt is a great, high value, nutritional food but it doesn’t guarantee the amount of probiotics, so it is difficult to measure its effect on the body.

First of all, yogurt is usually made from milk. Your classic probiotic organisms that give yogurt its identity and recognized by USDA and FDA are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. But there’s no regulation regarding the strains used, their probiotic value, or their potency.

Often in the new products labeled “probiotic yogurt,” yogurt manufacturers throw a third strain of bacteria, L. acidophilus, in with the other two yogurt bacteria. This third bacteria cannot survive in such a hostile environment with the other two yogurt bacteria. Furthermore, yogurt packaging doesn’t reveal how much yogurt probiotic bacteria is present and it doesn’t show the dosage of the third, added bacteria. It’s like throwing cats and dogs in the same cage and saying, “They’ll get along fine.”

Using yogurt to get probiotic value is not efficient because there’s no way of knowing how much of the active ingredient you are getting; it can change from product to product or batch to batch; there’s no regulation.

Another problem with yogurt is that it is a wet medium which is biologically very active. The bacteria will already be in the active state, rapidly reproductive and will very quickly die off before you even ingest it. In contrast, our probiotic suppleDear Stephen,ments offer bacteria in a dry, arrested growth state so the bacteria is not growing uncontrollably. Only when it enters your body, does it become active again.

4. What are the benefits of probiotics?

The benefits of probiotics are only associated with the strain and how the strain is grown, stabilized and delivered to the body. Once those features are guaranteed, probiotics can maximize the digestion of nutrients in the body.

70% of your immune system is located on the intestinal wall. Whenever you have a molecule of a nutrient pass the intestinal wall into the blood supply, the immune system determines if this molecule is food or an invader. This is usually determined by size. If your digestion has not broken down your food efficiently, a molecule of food might be too big, setting off your immune system which thinks it is a pathogen. The food is not converted into energy and your immune system’s activities are wasted on something that is not actually harming you. A hyperactive immune system can cause allergies and autoimmune disease.

Probiotics help the body in the following ways:

1) Immunity: Probiotics aid the body in breaking down nutrients to the right molecular size so that the immune system doesn’t become overactive. Probiotics promote an intelligent communication with the immune system, so the immune system only becomes hyperactive when there’s an invasion of a pathogen.
2) Improving mood: We have a “second brain” in our GI tract. You have more nerve-endings in your GI tract than you do in your brain. So when there’s ineffective digestion, you can experience irritability, or even depression. With proper digestion you can improve your mood and mental health.

3) Probiotics help the efficient movement of food through your body. If you have constipation, food isn’t moving fast enough; if you have diarrhea, it is moving too fast. Probiotics help you nourish yourself without poisoning yourself by regulating that transit time: you chew your food, it goes into your stomach, not too slow and not too fast.

4) Helping a fitness routine: If you are exercising a lot, probiotics can help you so you don’t suppress your digestion. Even though exercise is a healthful stress, it’s still a stress on your body and can be taxing on your digestive system.

5. What is the difference between probiotics in food versus in a supplement?

Probiotics in food add to the nutritional value of the food, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee a given health benefit associated with a probiotic bacteria. The amount of CFUs of a probiotic strain in food is largely unknown. In contrast, probiotic supplements with the correct and verified labeling provide enough CFUs and the right probiotic strains to actually be effective and provide health benefits. A word of caution, virtually all products claiming to have probiotic organism list species and not strains. Natren is the only exception. Natren probiotic products have a government agency that validates the strain and its potency.

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