Another beloved health fad that has taken off, especially in the yogurt industry. To think it all started with that simple Activia commercial which would replace the actor's stomach with a fit lean belly dancing body once they ate their oh so magical yogurt.
Let's start with what probiotics are:
Probiotics are bacteria. We all have bacteria in our gut and some of them are good and some of them are bad. The goal of a probiotic is to add a whole bunch of the happy bacteria to hopefully over power the bad ones and improve your digestion.
Do they really do this though? The answer is sort-of. The research is very mixed on the effectiveness of probiotics. They seem to provide some mild benefits in those that have recently had surgery, chemo therapy or powerful antibiotics which have eliminated the bacteria in their gut, but there is little to no proof that probiotics help out the general population, or those with irritable stomachs.
But companies always have to take the health claims to crazy levels or how else are they going to convince you to buy their product?
Take Danon for instance. This company has been through the ringer more than once with class action law suits for posting ridiculous claims on their products that were not even remotely true! The most recent example was the super boost their yogurt would give your immune system. Turns out the research they used was funded by their own company and inconclusive, yet they managed to find a few obscure lines in the conclusions that they could twist around to prove their point.
So probioitic yogurts are not the magical super dairy we thought. But what could be so terrible about eating them?
Think about it....how do you keep an excessive amount of bacteria alive in a container that is already harbouring a large amount of bacteria to begin with? That's right folks; yogurt is already a probiotic because they use bacteria to make it!
The answer is: Load it up with sugar! Bacteria love sugar after all! Next time you are in the store, compare your favourite probiotic yogurt to the regular yogurt and just see how much sugar is in them. Most of the probiotics out there are like desserts in a cup.
So to summarize:
1) The benefits of probiotics on the general population and those with mild stomach issues is somewhere between inconclusive and nonexistent.
2) Claims on probiotics are often blown out of proportion and likely cannot be applied to you.
3) Probiotics cost more money, generally are higher in calories and higher in sugar.
It's your money, you certainly can spend it as you please, just be aware that you may be wasting it on a product you don't really need.
Below I have posted a video from comedian Sarah Haskins. She does a series of webisodes called "Target Women" all about the ridiculous marketing directed at women. This is the episode on yogurt and it makes me laugh every time I watch it. WARNING- some swearing in the clip.