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Naturally occurring micro-organisms that can be good for your health. They’re added to foods, especially yoghurt. Studies show certain probiotics can help you fight colds, diarrhoea and more. But those aren’t always the ones in your food.
Most companies list only the genus and species of a strain. That’s like a restaurant serving “fish” without saying what kind it is.
Your move: Choose products that include the full names (genus, species, strain) of their probiotics. Chances are, more research is available about the benefits, which
is why the company chose to spotlight the strains.
Ignore the usual suspects
For example, L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus help turn milk into yoghurt.
Your move: Don’t be impressed by foods that list only these organisms. In order to be labelled a probiotic, an organism must have a health benefit.
Many strains are studied primarily by the companies that developed them. Then the companies promote the benefits. For example, Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 is found exclusively in Danone Activia.
Your move: Watch for definite claims, like “clinically proven” or “scientifically proven” – Danone had to scrap both of these claims in a 2010 settlement and replace them with less-certain phrases, such as “clinical studies show”.
Read the label
Questions about probiotics shouldn’t stop you from eating yoghurt, a good source of calcium. Probiotic supplements are another story: many may have no proven benefits. Look for products with labels that list probiotics’ full names, the number of colony-forming units and the scientifically-studied benefits of each strain. Dosage and storage suggestions should also be included.