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Science Probes How Probiotic Yogurts Affect Your Gut
Date:10/26/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have put the health promises of popular probiotic yogurts to the test and found they may alter the way in which food is metabolized.

But whether that means probiotic foods and supplements can improve your health remains to be seen, they said.

"Federal regulatory agencies are increasingly interested in evaluating all the health claims being made by probiotic food manufacturers," said study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist and director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. "So what we did was try to develop a model for the human gut that can give us a way to measure the effects."

What they saw, Gordon said, "is that adding a few billion of these microbial organisms to a gut community already containing tens of trillions of bacteria can, in fact, influence the metabolism of food ingredients. The structure of the microbe community doesn't change. But the function does."

Funding for the research came from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Danone Research, an arm of the food conglomerate that makes Dannon probiotic yogurt Activia.

The study is published in the Oct. 26 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The microbial communities found in all human beings are enormously bountiful, the authors said, and efforts have long been under way to better understand how humans and their resident microbe population interact.

According to the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the term "probiotics" commonly refers to digestible live microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses and yeasts, that have the potential to boost health when consumed in sufficient quantities.

In most cases, edible probiotics contain the same sort of "friendly bacteria" already found in the guts of most individuals. Makers of pr
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