Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Dietitian Is In: Live & Active Cultures

When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!

Question: What does the “live and active cultures” seal mean?

Answer: The “Live & Active Cultures” seal is restricted to yogurt products, according to the California Dairy Research Foundation. Developed by the National Yogurt Association, the seal is intended to help consumers distinguish between products containing live cultures of bacteria and those that have been heat treated, subsequently killing all bacterial strains. The seal is available to any refrigerated yogurt or frozen yogurt manufacturer and requires products to contain a standard amount of lactic acid bacteria per gram at the time of manufacture. While helpful to consumers, the seal is limited in that it does not differentiate from added probiotics—those beneficial bacteria that populate our intestinal tract and have been linked to specific benefits, such as improved digestion and immunity—and the starter culture bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles) used in the fermentation process for producing yogurt. As for other products containing probiotics (that may not carry the seal), such as granola bars, cereal, and chewing gum, additional research is required by the consumer to investigate whether the products contain adequate quantities of probiotics, whether they are alive at the time of manufacture, and whether research has determined that the probiotics listed in the product are beneficial.

Greek yogurt (with Live & Active cultures) topped with blueberries

This Q & A was written by McKenzie for the December 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.

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