Yogurt is a creamy, fermented dairy product. Probiotic yogurt is any yogurt that contains live, active bacterial cultures. Most natural or regular yogurt is probiotic. A normal serving of yogurt contains billions of bacteria, which many people believe to be beneficial to the body. Research has shown that the bacteria in yogurt can affect a person's digestive system — which naturally contains trillions of bacteria itself — but just how beneficial probiotic yogurt is to a person's health was not clear as of 2012.
When yogurt is made, bacterial cultures are added to milk, and the sugar in the milk transforms into lactic acid. The lactic acid then reacts with the protein in the milk to give the yogurt its thick, creamy texture. Lactic acid also is what makes yogurt taste tart or tangy. Most yogurt is combined with one or more flavors, typically fruit flavors. Various toppings and other foods, such as berries or granola, can be added to or mixed into yogurt as well.
Probiotic organisms, or probiotics, are living microorganisms that are believed to benefit the health of a host organism when administered in adequate numbers. Dietary supplements that contain probiotic organisms are also called probiotics. Although their effectiveness was uncertain as of 2012, the live bacterial cultures in yogurt are considered to be probiotics.
According to manufacturers of probiotic yogurt, the bacterial cultures that they select for their products is more likely to survive digestion and make it to the colon. This means that the yogurt might be more effective in aiding digestive problems and helping to regulate digestion. Companies that manufacture these yogurts often use trademarked bacteria that are not available in other yogurts, and they cite their own studies to justify their claims of superiority to other yogurts. The medical and scientific community, however, has been somewhat divided on whether such trademarked bacteria are better than other bacterial cultures. As of 2012, more studies were needed to evaluate the health benefits of probiotic yogurt.
Research into the effectiveness of probiotic yogurt has shown that it can change the way that a person's body metabolizes food. As of 2012, however, it was unclear whether this change was beneficial to the person's health. Some research has suggested that the probiotics in yogurt might help treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea and infections of the urinary or intestinal tracts. More research was needed to determine how the probiotics affect these conditions and their overall effectiveness.
Probiotics and Children
Studies also have shown that probiotic yogurt provides minimal benefits to children. Some research has suggested that it might reduce the length of cases of diarrhea in young children. Other research has suggested that probiotic yogurt might help prevent or limit conditions such as eczema, asthma or allergies. It might pose some risks, however, for some children whose immune systems are weakened or for babies who were born prematurely.