Do the health claims support what is going on in the body?
- Activia is only known for advertising their completely unique bacterial culture BL Regularis. Activia does not work to promote the other potentially more beneficial elements in their yogurt. There has not been significant evidence to support a large or documented change in physiological function.
- It is important for consumers to recognize that the total amount of minerals listed on the food products does not always equal the amount available to be used by the body. The nature of the complex that the minerals are found in will influence their bioavailability. The free or soluble forms are generally well absorbed, compared to the bound form (Angel de la Fuente et al. 2003).
- When lactic acid is formed from lactose in yogurt, this leads to a reduction in the pH. A lower pH leads to alterations in the composition, structure and reactivity of the casein micelles and changes the mineral equilibrium (Angel de la Funete et al. 2003). A high percentage of the minerals studied do have a high percentage linked to a dairy lipid (Angel de la Fuente et al. 2003). The concentrations of the minerals in the yogurt were not affected by the different fat contents. This is a plus for the Activia brand because Activia has a much higher fat content than other brands of yogurt.
- The most numerous microflora in the large intestine are lactic acid bacteria (LAB). The benefits of having this type of microflora include improved digestion, alleviation of constipation, increased uptake of dietary minerals, reduction in blood cholesterol levels and lastly some protection from tumor growth (Arunachalam et al. 2000). It is not understood yet how lactic acid bacteria is able to stimulate the immune system. Action through gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the systemic immune system is one proposed mechanism of action. Another proposed mode of action could be through the variety of immunoregulatory cells in the intestinal epithelium (Gill et al. 2000).
- Yogurt is able to provide calcium to the body in a bioavaliable form. This means that there is a large percentage of the total calcium in the yogurt can be used for functions in the body (Pohjanheimo & Sandell 2009). However, as mentioned previously, the amount of calcium absorbed also depends on the amount of vitamin D. Activia offers a disproportionate amount of calcium and vitamin D. Other yogurts make sure to include equal or close to equal amount of calcium and vitamin D.
- In a number of studies, including the study by Kogan et al. (2009), a deficiency in calcium was observed with the greatest prevalence in women who were between the ages of 18 and 49 years old. Kogan et al. (2009), found that there was a very low calcium intake in women who were considered to be overweight or obese in comparison to women who were normal or low weight (Kogan et al. 2009).
- Large amounts of calcium are able to be accumulated in the mitochondria. Calcium is able to leave the mitochondria through gradients driven by the pH gradient across the mitochondrial membrane (Halestrap 2009). The purpose of the mitochondria taking up excess calcium serves a role of stimulating respiration and oxidative phosphorylation. These functions will occur when the body is responding to an increase in ATP demand. This demonstrates a role that calcium has in the regulation of ATP production (Halestrap 2009). In accordance with this role, Halestrap (2009) also found that calcium is also able to contribute to recruiting organelles to areas of the cell with high energy demands.
- Phosphorus is usually provided in some quantity within yogurts. Phosphorus is important because along with calcium, it is one of the most important nutrients in bone health (Angel de la Fuente et al. 2003). In Activia, there is 8 % of your recommended daily intake of phosphorus.
- Probiotics are defined in an article by Howarth et al. (2010), as living, non-pathogenic micro organisms most often in the form of bacteria. A positive influence on host health is demonstrated when the probiotics are administered in significant quantities (Howarth et al. 2010). There have been several mechanisms of action noted for probiotics. In regards to intestinal functioning, probiotics are able to adhere to the intestinal-luminal interface and enhance the mucosal barrier function. Also in the intestinal lumen, probiotics are able to compete with pathogens for such functions as adequate nutrition, receptor binding and colonization. It is important to consider that individual probiotics rarely accomplish all tasks on their own. Dose, frequency of administration and the individual’s composition of bacterial flora will all be influential in the overall effect.
- Infant’s whose mother had received a probiotic containing lactobacillus rhamnosus or bifidobacterium lactis, had much more detectable levels of INF-gamma than the control group (Prescott et al. 2008). These infants also had increased levels of IgA and cytokines including TGF-beta which are shown to be more apparent in a healthy, recovering state. These infants were followed up and reported to have less instances of allergies including; asthma and wheezing. This can be extrapolated to other research to suggest that infants who are exposed to different microbes in utero can experience immunomodulatory effects (Prescott et al. 2008). This is an important finding as it highlights the importance of probiotic intake both during pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
- Rodent models have mostly been used to demonstrate an enhancement of natural immune function. These studies with rodents have demonstrated that lactic acid bacteria will increase non-specific phagocytic activity against bacteria as well as increasing the production of myeloid and lymphoid cell cytokine production (Arunachalam et al. 2000). In the study by Arunachalam et al. in (2000), the particular strain of interest was Bifidobacterium lactis (strain HN019, DR10). In laboratory animals, this strain has been shown to enhance phagocytic cell function which leads to the production of interferon-gamma (IFNgamma). In human clinical trials, the levels of IFN alpha were found to be much higher in subjects who were taking milk with bifidobacterium lactis (Arunachalam et al. 2000).
Supplements versus yogurt
In the study by Diop et al. (2008), stress-induced gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting were improved through the use of the Probio-Stick, which contained a strain from both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.