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Student Life

You should know you're a medic: Live yoghurt drinks

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:0110390
  1. Guy Hagan, fourth year medical student1
  1. 1University of Birmingham

Are they just a con? Guy Hagan examines the issues

“It's all a con,” exclaimed my medic housemate, as an advertisment for a live yoghurt drink was shown on the television. “All the bacteria would be broken down in the stomach and do nothing,” he went on.

Live yoghurt drinks refer to a group of drinks made from fermented milk containing cultures of specific types of bacteria. The bacteria cultured are genera of human origin, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. Casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and B. Longum.1 The advertised philosophy behind live yoghurt drinks is that when they are eaten they can replenish levels of “good” bacteria found in the bowel that may have been lowered by a stressful lifestyle and an unpredictable diet. The result is a well balanced intestinal flora, which helps maintain a healthy immune system.2

What health effects do live yoghurt drinks have?

The suspicion that consumption of live fermented milk drinks may have positive health effects has been around for nearly 100 years, since Metchnikof postulated that the longevity of rural Bulgarians was due to their large consumption of these drinks.3

For the bacteria in the drink to exert any health effects, they would …

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