Probiotic Drinks – not as healthy as they’d like us to believe

Last week I wrote about how you can boost your immune system by looking after the health of your gut – you can read the full article here.

One of the tips I gave to help boost your levels of gut flora (and thereby help improve your immune system) was to eat foods naturally high in good bacteria or take a probiotic supplement.  What I don’t recommend are those small yogurt drinks that you can buy in the supermarket.  Cleverly marketed as a ‘healthy choice’ they are anything but.  When I visited the Yakult website I couldn’t find any information about the product ingredients so on my next visit to the supermarket I took photos of the ingredients label of the two most popular probiotic drinks in the UK; Yakult and Actimel.

Let’s start with the Actimel label. 

Actimel ingredients label

You’ll see that sugar is pretty high up on the list which tells us that its one of the main ingredients of this drink.  Dextrose (a form of glucose) is also featured on the list so that’s a bit more sugar in there.  For every 100ml of Actimel you drink, you’re getting 11.6 grams of sugar which is more than 2 teaspoons in each little pot.

If we take a look at the Yakult label


and you’ll see that the sugar content is almost as high – almost 2 teaspoons in each drink and that’s not taking into account the maltodextrin, a starch that will be turned into sugar very quickly in your body.

Compare that to the ingredients in natural greek yogurt:  Cows milk, milk cream & live active yogurt cultures.  Plus with natural yogurt you’ll get a healthy 9 grams of protein compared to just 2.7 grams in Actimel and a measly 0.9 grams in Yakult.

It’s also worth looking at the bacteria content of each product too.  The Yakult labels says there are 6.5 billion bacteria per bottle whereas a really good quality supplement such as the Phil Richards probiotic gut health capsules contain 12.5 billion per capsule.

The bottom line is that these drinks may help slightly to improve the health of your gut, but these benefits are mostly outweighed by the large amount of fattening and unhealthy sugar.  Don’t believe the marketing hype, there is a better way to get your friendly bacteria.

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Claire Young - December 10, 2016

Hi, really enjoy reading what you’ve written. I tried to sign up to your newsletters , but it couldn’t ‘find the page’

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