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What's Inside Probiotic Yogurt?

By Edited Jan 20, 2016 0 0

Ever stared in confusion at the dazzling array of yogurt products at the local supermarket? Have you asked yourself if any of them are any good? To help you choose, we’ve looked under the hood (or cap) of some probiotic yogurt brands and have searched the literature to see if any them might have benefits.

The reason that there are now so many varieties in the supermarket stems from the fact that yogurt has a projected 7 billion market in the United States[1]. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, there appears to be a budding “Yogurt War” reminiscent of the old cola wars of the 1980s[2].

Milk aisle

Besides capitalizing on our cravings for the luscious taste and texture of Greek-style yogurt, the industry is playing the health card. Research has shown that many bacterial strains used to make yogurt are beneficial and, thus, are probiotic in nature. But some probiotic bacteria are more potent than others, and not every yogurt brand contains the same species. This means that some brands will be potentially more health-inducing than others. 

Typical Yogurt Bacterial Strains

Just about every yogurt on the market contains Lactobacillus bulgarus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These strains are responsible for yogurt texture and flavor. While most hard core probiotic scientists have ignored these general strains, there are some studies that indicate that they too have probiotic beneftis. A study using non-alcoholic, fatty liver disease patients demonstrated that they could be helpful for the liver, by improving liver enzyme levels[3]. In individuals with anorexia, they helped improve the immune response[4]. They can also help people with lactose intolerance through increased lactose digestion[5]. An early study with infants suffering from diarrhea showed that feeding babies yogurt could help clear up intestinal problems[6][7].

Yogurt with Potent Probiotics

The majority of yogurt brands add other species besides L. bulgarus and S. thermophilus. However, the majority of the added species are not defined at a strain level, and their purpose is not for health benefits but more for giving the yogurt a unique taste and texture. While these added species most certainly do improve the probiotic value of yogurt, it's impossible to be certain what that contribuition is without the precise strain name. However, there are some brands that do identify the strains that they add. These brands are La Yogurt; Dannon’s Activia and DanActive; and Yakult. 

La Yogurt

La Yogurt specifically mentions that their yogurt contains the strain Bifidobacterium animalis lactis BB-12. This strain is mentioned time and time again in clinical studies, both alone and with other probiotic strains. Individual studies, looking at B. animalis lactis BB-12 alone, have found that this strain has the ability to reduce inflammation[8][9][10]. Yet, it also has the ability to bolster the immune response, making influenza vaccines more potent[11] and reducing respiratory diseases in infants[12]


Activia, from Dannon, contains Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010. This strain is also known as the trade strain, Bifidus regularis. This probiotic bacteria has been investigated individually and seems ideal for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Initial studies in mice showed that it reduces intestinal inflammation[13]. In humans, it reduces symptoms associated with IBS, like constipation[14][15], bloating[16], and discomfort[17].


The probiotic yogurt DanActive from Dannon contains Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001. The trade name of this strain is L. casei Immunitas. The reason that this strain was interesting for Dannon was that early investigations in children suggested that it could prevent diarrhea[18][19]. Other investigations indicated that it may even be helpful for Crohn’s disease[20]. It also seems to boost the immune response, helping influenza vaccinations[21]. Another trial in 2010 showed that it could decrease the rate of illness in children[22]


Yakult contains the strain Lactobacillus casei Shirota. This strain is continuely being researched. It is already known that it is useful for chronic constipation[23]. It also modulates the immune response, preventing common infections[24], helping allergy[25] and improving liver disease[26]. It may also be good for cancer treatment. Lactobacillus casei Shirota reduces carcinogenic metabolites in the colon[27] and the reemergence of bladder cancer after surgery[28].

More Fun in the Dairy Aisle

While most yogurts are designed for taste and texture, there are some that have been developed with an eye for improving health. Now that you have an idea of what the most potent strains can do, your next visit to the dairy aisle should be less confusing and a lot more fun!

Phillips Colon Health Probiotic Supplement, 90 Count
Amazon Price: $59.99 $27.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 20, 2016)


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  1. "No junk: Pepsi’s entry into US yogurt market comes at the right time." Firstpost Business . 2/09/2013 <Web >
  2. "The Yogurt Wars ." Forbes. 2/09/2013 <Web >
  3. "Effect of a probiotic on liver aminotransferases in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients: a double blind randomized clinical trial.." Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. . (2011): 1090-1095.
  4. "Effects of a nutritional intervention with yogurt on lymphocyte subsets and cytokine production capacity in anorexia nervosa patients.." Eur J Nutr. (2006): 225-233.
  5. "Chronic consumption of fresh but not heated yogurt improves breath-hydrogen status and short-chain fatty acid profiles: a controlled study in healthy men with or without lactose maldigestion." Am J Clin Nutr. (2000): 1474-1479.
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  11. "Evaluation of the immune benefits of two probiotic strains Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis, BB-12® and Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. paracasei, L. casei 431® in an influenza vaccination model: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Br J Nutr. (2012): 876-884.
  12. "Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 in reducing the risk of infections in infancy." Br J Nutr. (2010): 409-416.
  13. "Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis fermented milk product reduces inflammation by altering a niche for colitogenic microbes.." Proc Natl Acad Sci . (2010): 18132-18137.
  14. "Effect of the consumption of a fermented dairy product containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 on constipation in childhood: a multicentre randomized controlled trial (NTRTC: 1571)." BMC Pediatr. (2009): 1-6.
  15. "Effect of the ingestion of a symbiotic yogurt on the bowel habits of women with functional constipation." Gastroenterol Latinoam. (2008): 16-25.
  16. "Clinical trial: the effects of a fermented milk product containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 on abdominal distension and gastrointestinal transit in irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.." Aliment Pharmacol Ther. (2008): 104-114.
  17. "Fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 improved self-reported digestive comfort amongst a general population of adults. A randomized, open-label, controlled, pilot study.." J Dig Dis. (2009): 61-70.
  18. "Multicentric study of the effect of milk fermented by Lactobacillus casei on the incidence of diarrhoea.." Int J Clin Pract. (2000): 568-571.
  19. "The effect of supplementation with milk fermented by Lactobacillus casei (strain DN-114 001) on acute diarrhoea in children attending day care centres." Int J Clin Pract.. (1999): 179-184.
  20. "Lactobacillus casei downregulates commensals' inflammatory signals in Crohn's disease mucosa.." Inflamm Bowel Dis.. (2009): 275-283.
  21. "A probiotic fermented dairy drink improves antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly in two randomised controlled trials. ." Vaccine. (2009): 5677-5684.
  22. "Use of a fermented dairy probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus casei (DN-114 001) to decrease the rate of illness in kids: the DRINK study. A patient-oriented, double-blind, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.." Eur J Clin Nutr. (2010): 669-677.
  23. "Probiotic beverage containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota improves gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with chronic constipation. ." Can J Gastroenterol. (2003): 655-659.
  24. "Daily probiotic's (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) reduction of infection incidence in athletes. ." Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2011): 55-64.
  25. "Oral delivery of Lactobacillus casei Shirota modifies allergen-induced immune responses in allergic rhinitis.." Clin Exp Allergy. (2008): 1282-1289.
  26. "Effect of probiotic treatment on deranged neutrophil function and cytokine responses in patients with compensated alcoholic cirrhosis.." J Hepatol. (2008): 945-951.
  27. "Effect of dietary intervention with different pre- and probiotics on intestinal bacterial enzyme activities. ." Eur J Clin Nutr. (2007): 225-231.
  28. "Prevention of recurrence with epirubicin and lactobacillus casei after transurethral resection of bladder cancer." J Urol. (2008): 485-490.

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