Monday, June 17, 2024

Sugar coated probiotics

June 12, 2009 by Ange  

When I suggest adding probiotics, lots of clients ask ‘oh do you mean like Actimel?’ Probiotic is from Greek and means ‘for life’. The definition of a probiotic is a live microorganism that gives health benefit when taken in adequate amounts. Numerous robust studies have shown how probiotics interact with our immune and digestive systems in a positive way. I’m not going to go into those studies now, as frankly there are others far more talented at reviewing all the science papers and summarising what they say; but I have read lots of papers and have no doubt in my mind that firstly we need healthy bacteria in our guts and secondly good probiotics provide those. The purpose of this article is to look at the commercial probiotic yogurts in the supermarket, such as Actimel. You see, we Nutritional Therapists will generally recommend a therapeutic probiotic, in a powder or a capsule. There are a few different products that I use, selecting a specific strain depending on the clients’ conditions. They are specifically designed to pass through the stomach without being destroyed by gastric juices and they come in a high dose, containing billions of live microorganisms. I had always been under the impression that the commercial probiotic yogurts contains far fewer live bacteria that were unlikely to successfully pass through the stomach AND that they contained sugar. I recently attended a conference (Primary Care 2009) and listened to a talk by two researchers into the immune benefits of probiotics, specifically Actimel. Of course, a lot of the research studies they talked about were funded by DANONE, the makers of Actimel, so it all has to be taken in context. I was however, surprised to hear about robust clinical trials, which demonstrated the health benefits of the product; they have also shown that the live organisms do make it into the digestive tract. So has this made me re-think and am I going to recommend Actimel for my clients? Going back to my original list of objections, these products do contain 10 billion micoorganisms, which is comparable to the therapeutic probiotics from companies such as Nutri-Link. They also have the research to demonstrate that successfully pass through the stomach, although they are demonstrating this in laboratory or test conditions, after the product has hung around on a supermarket shelf will it contain so many live and active bacteria? My biggest concern however is in the list of ingredients, specifically the sugars or sugar substitutes. Improving health and well being starts with the foods that we eat, and ALL of us, I’m sure, will do better by eating less sugar. So having a health-promoting product, which contains sugar just doesn’t make sense. So that’s the Actimel Original ruled out, what about the low-fat version? That’s even worse; it still contains a sugar (dextrose, anything ending in an ose is usually a sugar) and also contains the sweetener aspartame. Yuck, yuck yuck! There is controversy over the use of aspartame because it may be a neurotoxin, that means toxic to the brain and that it can lead to brain tumours. The Food Standards Agency have continued to give it the green light, on the basis that the average level of intake is unlikely to cause a problem, but do you want to take that sort of risk? I don’t think I want to put a product that is a brain toxin at high levels anywhere near my body. Each of us is biochemically unique, so what constitutes a high level of aspartame for one might not for another, but frankly that’s a game of chance I just don’t think is worth playing. So, the bottom line is that, yes, the evidence would suggest that commercial probiotic yogurts such as Actimel have health benefits, but they are far BETTER ways to have those health benefits, with no added sugar or brain toxins. I would suggest that you take a good quality probiotic (go to your local health food shop or Nutri-Centre and ask) or of course speak to a nutritional therapist. In the supermarket, buy a simple, plain live yogurt, I like Yeo Valley. You’re bowel will thank you for it.


Sweet Talking – Research shows potential health risks of aspartame

Food Standards Agency – Aspartame

The Nutri Centre



23 Responses to “Sugar coated probiotics”
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    I’m temporarily living in South Africa for a few years and have to say in the area I live, any time a pharmacist or GP is issuing the prescription of antibiotics, they always recommend probiotics with it. Strange that the UK GP/pharmacists don’t do that too, or at least I have never heard it in the UK.

    I actually take probiotics every day since I did a great detox last October, and I’ve never felt better!

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