Thursday, April 25, 2013

Probiotics: Let's Get Back on Track

Yogurt was a hot topic this week in Boston, less than two weeks after the fatal marathon bombing. (Prayers to all touched by this tragedy.) More on yogurt in Boston in a minute, but first…

Similar to September 11, I know exactly what I was doing when the news item flashed across my phone screen about the marathon bombing. (I was purchasing an electric scooter for my son’s birthday at Toys“R”Us.) Within minutes, I emailed Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, the largest kefir manufacturer in the U.S., as I wanted to make sure she (runner) and her family (spectators) were safe. They were, thankfully.

Running and kefir go hand-in-hand in my eyes, as Lifeway started much of its grassroots marketing through support of the running community by offering kefir at the finish lines for most major races.
Lifeway is on the right track with promoting the health benefits of its products. The company has long been a leader in the cultured probiotic dairy movement and continues to invest in promoting the probiotic component of its products.

When Julie’s father—Michael—came to America, he brought with him his family’s Russian recipe for kefir. I’ll never forget the first time I met Julie…about 18 years ago, but who is counting! Lifeway’s original factory was just a few miles away from my office near O’Hare, and her dad sent her with samples of a new product for me to taste.

Julie continues to build on her father’s recipe. She has modified that recipe over the years to incorporate advancements in nutritional science, such as the inclusion of superfruits, various nutrients and probiotics.
Lifeway Kefir contains seven to 10 billion colony-forming-units of 10 strains of bacteria, plus ProBoost, Lifeway’s exclusive pair (Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus reuteri) of clinically proven probiotics that helps balance the body’s ecosystem, and supports digestive health and immunity.

For more information on the probiotics in Lifeway Foods, visit HERE.

Back on Track in Boston
Others in cultured dairy need to get back on track with probiotics. That takes us back to Boston, where many leaders in cultured dairy convened this past Wednesday for the first Global Summit on the Health Effects of Yogurt, sponsored by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and the Danone Institute International. The U.S.-based Dairy Research Institute, established under the leadership of U.S. dairy farmers, was also a partner in this first global summit.

The intent of this collaboration is to create an ongoing evaluation of the state of the science surrounding the relationship between yogurt consumption and health. This, of course, includes probiotics.
This first global summit in Boston focused on the impact of yogurt and dairy consumption on health outcomes and health care costs, particularly related to chronic health conditions. The event featured leading international experts in medicine and nutrition science.

“Nutrition research continues to shed light on how individual foods and food groups affect health,” said Sharon Donovan, past president of the ASN and professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois. “This new collaboration will help to define the evidence base for yogurt’s effects on health promotion and disease prevention and identify areas where more research is needed. This science-based approach aligns well with ASN’s mission of advancing nutrition research and knowledge to improve public health and clinical practice worldwide.”

The summit was packed with information, including a discussion on the impact of regular yogurt consumption on nutrient deficiencies, body weight regulation, chronic health conditions and related health-care costs. Speakers discussed how the industry can leverage the unique nutrient profile of yogurt, as compared to other better-for-you foods, including other dairy foods. The group also discussed opportunities for innovation and areas for future research.

If you were unable to attend, the good news is that the summit was recorded and will be made available in the near future at (I will let you know when it becomes available, as it is very informative.) Pending editorial acceptance, a peer-reviewed journal supplement will also feature review articles and summaries of the presentations.

Back to Probiotics
In the mean time, Mary Ellen Sanders, a global authority on probiotics, and co-moderator of the summit’s session on yogurt and gut health, explains that during the past two decades or so, the probiotic field has seen steady progress toward understanding that not all probiotics are the same. “Early on, ‘probiotic’ was used as a general term, a usage that masked that it comprises numerous genera, species and strains,” she says. “In time, however, ‘strain-specificity of health effects’ became the mantra of the probiotic field.

“We know that numerous factors can impact probiotic functionality, of which strain is only one,” she says. “So I pose this question. What amount of the variability observed in probiotic functionality can be accounted for by strain differences, and what amount is due to other factors, such as host microbiota or diet?”

Numerous meta-analyses conclude, with some cautions, that probiotics, as a class, are beneficial. This suggests that many probiotic strains do share the same effects. “If what is important is to deliver a bolus of live bacteria to the small intestine to interact with immune cells, then perhaps any number of bacteria may serve this purpose equally well,” says Sanders. “So, maybe the time has come for us to be open to the idea that there may be a spectrum of probiotic functions, some of which involve capabilities unique to only one or a few strains but others that are more general to larger groups of microbes.”

The fact is, consumers understand that probiotics are good for them. According to the 2012 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health, commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 20% of consumers surveyed consider the inclusion of probiotics when making decisions about buying packaged food or beverages and 14% are trying to get a certain amount or as much as possible in their diet. (See charts.)

“Even the European Food Safety Authority, the purveyor of probiotic criticism that has led to the word ‘probiotic’ being pulled off much of the European market, approved a non-strain-specific claim that yogurt cultures can improve lactose digestion in lactose intolerant people,” says Sanders.

To read more from Mary Ellen Sanders, visit HERE.

Ten Recent Innovations Touting Their Probiotic Content
Lifeway Foods has made kefir shelf stable by freeze drying it, a process that preserves the live and active probiotic cultures. New Lifeway ProBugs Bites are tiny freeze-dried kefir melts that quickly dissolve in baby’s mouth for safe and easy self-feeding. Flavors are: Orange Creamy Crawler, Goo-Berry Pie and Strawnana Split flavors.
For more information, visit HERE.

Organic Valley’s new and improved Drinkable Lowfat Yogurt comes in three varieties: Plain, Triple Berry and Vanilla Bean. The product is made with organic milk from the co-op’s pastured cows and cultured with 320 billion live and active probiotic cultures. That’s 32 times more probiotics than most kefirs, according to the company. Labels tout the fact that the product specifically contains 25% more of the BB-12 strain (as compared to the original drinkable yogurt formula).
For more information, visit HERE.

ProYo Frozen Yogurt is described as an “anytime frozen treat.” Each 4-ounce squeeze tube contains 20 grams of milk protein, live active probiotic cultures, added fiber and only 160 calories. It comes in four varieties:  Banana Vanilla, Blueberry Pomegranate, Dutch Chocolate and Vanilla Bean. For more information, visit HERE.

Heini’s Greek Yogurt Cheese includes real Greek yogurt that is added to the cheese vat. Sold in 8-ounce chunks, a 1-ounce serving contains 100 calories, 8 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. Package claims include: Probiotic with live yogurt cultures.
For more information, visit HERE.

The Hain Celestial Group Inc., extends The Greek Gods brand to drinkable Kefir low-fat cultured milk. It comes in four flavors: Plain, Honey, Honey Vanilla and Honey Strawberry. A one-cup serving delivers 12 grams of protein and probiotic cultures. It is also gluten free and 99% lactose free. For more information, visit HERE.

The Dole Fruit Smoothie Shaker product uses a convenient and attractive single-serve container to provide consumers the opportunity to make a homemade, hand-blended smoothie. The product contains both frozen fruit and yogurt. Simply unscrew the cap, add juice to the fill line, re-apply the cap and shake for about 30 to 45 seconds. The result is a perfectly blended smoothie, just like from the local smoothie shop. Each low-fat smoothie contains real yogurt with live and active cultures, including probiotics, as well as prebiotic fiber. For more information, visit HERE.

This product is non-dairy, but definitely worth noting. Ruby’s Rockets are frozen fruit and vegetable pops designed for kids. These all-natural ice pops are a fun, convenient, healthy low-calorie snack containing probiotics. There are three varieties: Rocket Red (sweet potatoes, strawberries, carrots and beets with a fruit punch flavor), Galaxy Green (avocados, kiwis, spinach and apples with a tropical lime flavor) and Orbit Orange (sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges and lemon with an orange flavor). For more information, visit HERE.

Another innovative non-dairy option is KeVita Daily Cleanse, a low-calorie, low-glycemic beverage designed for cleansing the body. Lightly sweetened with stevia, it has only 10 calories and two grams of sugar per bottle. Organic lemon and a hint of cayenne create a hydrating refreshment that may help to curb cravings for snacks and sugary drinks, according to the company. All KeVita drinks feature four complementary strains of probiotics--Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus  plantarum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus--combined with KeVita’s signature and proprietary probiotic culture.
For more information, visit HERE.

And in case you missed two products featured earlier this week as a Daily Dose of Dairy, here you go.

Casper’s Active D’Lites with Probiotics Lite Ice Cream comes in three flavors: Almond, Caramel and Vanilla. Each single-serve bar delivers 110 to 140 calories, 8 to 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 3 to 4 grams of protein, depending on variety. The fibers, which function as prebiotics, are digestive resistant maltodextrin, fructooligosaccharides and inulin. Ingredient statements state that at the time of manufacture, each bar contained 10 billion colony-forming-units of probiotics.
For more information, visit HERE.

That Indian Drink is a new line of chef-crafted lassi that comes in three creative flavor combinations: Alphonso Mango (contains the essence of rose water), Blueberry Cardamom and Raspberry Cinnamon (contains a hint of ginger). The drinks come in 8-ounce plastic bottles, with each containing 130 to 150 calories and 2 to 2.5 grams of fat, depending on variety. Each bottle also delivers more than a full serving of fruit, probiotics, 7 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber (from the fruit).
For more information, visit HERE.

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