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11 Reasons To Avoid Yakult And Other Probiotic Drinks


3 May 2016 - Updated with an offical response from Yakult at the bottom of the article.

Note - To Download a FREE one page guide on the best Natural Probiotics CLICK HERE

Yakult, Align, Probio 7, Bio-Kult, Activia... The chilled section at any supermarket is littered
with these probiotic drinks. Many people down their morning shot of 'good bacteria' after
hearing about the benefits of extra probiotics in the diet.
Don't get me wrong, probiotics are great. There are numerous health benefits to consuming
probiotics, Mark Sisson covers this topic in great detail with his article on fermented
foods. Your gut health is closely linked to your overall health, so feeding your gut with good
bacteria in the form of probiotics makes perfect sense.

Personally, I aim to eat a wide variety of probiotic rich foods such as sauerkraut (make sure
it's raw unpasteurized sauerkraut. You can see my best natural sources of probiotics
in THIS guide. I love the Superkraut from Peace, Love & Vegetables), kombucha, kimchi &
kefir. When I can't eat fermented foods I will take a quality probiotic supplement such
as Thorne Floramend or Now Foods Gr8-Dophilus.

I am also aware that a lot of people don't eat many fermented foods, which again is why I
recommend supplementing with a quality probiotic supplement.

However, I commonly hear 'Oh I don't need that as I take a probiotic drink (i.e. Yakult)
everyday'. I cringe when I hear this, why? Well, I have 11 reasons why you should avoid
probiotic drinks!

11 Reasons To Avoid Probiotic Drinks Such

As Yakult
1) Sugar
If you look at the ingredient label of the industries most popular probiotic drink, you will see
that it contains 11.4g of sugar per 65ml serve (this is 17.5g per 100ml). There 'Light' version
contains 7.1g of sugar per 65ml serve (10.9g per 100ml).

Yakult Yakult Light

Sugar per 65ml serve 11.4g 7.1g
Sugar per 100ml 17.5g 10.9g

Data from Yakult.com.au

The first ingredient is water (it turns out they even use reverse osmosis filtered water - nice
start), second on the list is sugar (sucrose). If we look at the nutrition label, we can see that
the standard Yakult probiotic drink has 10.2grams of sucrose (that's standard cane sugar) per
serve! That is 2.5 teaspoons of pure sugar that you are downing first thing in the morning!

The 17.5grams per 100mls is HIGHER than that of coca-cola!

If you think you're safe as you only use the Light version of Yakult, think again. It's only
30% less sugar. You're still receiving 1.5 teaspoons of pure cane sugar per serve!

2) Skim Milk Powder

The third ingredient on the list is skim milk powder. Skim milk powder is a horrible food
source not only because all the nutritious fat (see my blog post 9 Reasons Why Your Doctor
Is Wrong About Fat where I talk about fat phobia) has been 'skimmed off', but because of the
heat treatment the milk receives to turn it into powder form. This turns a healthy nutritious
food into a inflammation health bomb. Chris Kresser covers this in detail with his article 'Still
think low fat dairy is the healthy choice?'

3) Dextrose - More Sugar

The third ingredient in the popular probiotic drink Yakult is Dextrose. Dextrose is a simple
sugar, and in Yakults' case, is derived from tapioca. Not quite as bad as the standard sucrose
sugar (due to the lack of fructose molecule) however, it is still a simple carbohydrate. As if
we didn't have enough sugar from the first two ingredients, we now have some more!

NB: I should point out that some of the sugar is used in the fermentation process to grow the
bacteria used in Yakults' probiotic drinks.

4) Ultra Heat Treated

The Yakult website does a great job of explaining the manufacturing process when making
their popular probiotic drink. You can read all about this HERE. Yakult use a 'Ultra Heat
Treatment' as explained by this statement:

"Skim milk powder, sucrose and dextrose are blended with filtered water to produce a batch
of milk, then sterilised using Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) at 120 degrees. The high
temperature used for sterilisation also produces Yakults natural colour as milk proteins and
sugars undergo a caramelisation reaction."

Source: http://www.yakult.com.au/resources/documents/Yakult_2ndKitMadeFreshForYou.pd
They say this like it's a good thing?! High Temperature treatment of milk destroys milk
proteins and can lead to autoimmune issues. The Food Renegade looks at the harmful effects
of UHT in this blog post - Just Say No To UHT Milk.

The damaging effects of UHT can be summed up with this quote:

According to Lee Dexter, microbiologist and owner of White Egret Farm goat dairy in
Austin, Texas, ultra-pasteurization is an extremely harmful process to inflict on the fragile
components of milk. Dexter explains that milk proteins are complex, three-dimensional
molecules, like tinker toys. They are broken down and digested when special enzymes fit into
the parts that stick out. Rapid heat treatments like pasteurization, and especially ultra-
pasteurization, actually flatten the molecules so the enzymes cannot do their work. If such
proteins pass into the bloodstream (a frequent occurrence in those suffering from leaky
gut, a condition that can be brought on by drinking processed commercial milk), the body
perceives them as foreign proteins and mounts an immune response. That means a
chronically overstressed immune system and much less energy available for growth and

Source: http://www.westonaprice.org/Ultra-Pasteurized-Milk.html

5) Homogenisation
After the fermentation process is complete when making Yakult probiotic drinks, the next
step is "a smoothing process known as homogenisation" (source
- http://www.yakult.com.au/resources/documents/Yakult_2ndKitMadeFreshForYou.pdf)

Though not as bad as high heat treatment, homogenization still destroys milk molecules. Milk
companies use homogenisation to ensure a consistent texture. They literally blend the milk
and cream from the cows milk to produce a standard, consistent product.

You can see some pretty cool photos looking at the difference of homogenised milk and
unhomogenised milk at the Weston A Price website. However we're not concerned about
how Yakult drinks look, instead we're worried about the impact that this homogenization
process has on the milk and on our body.

This is a great quote from the Weston A Price website:

"We have observed that pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, and homogenization impact the
colloidal structure of milk, altering its organizational integrity. ... Homogenization affects the
integrity of the fat globules, rendering them smaller and more uniform, and thus, alters raw
milks colloidal ultrastructure, too."
6) Artificial Sweeteners
Yakult Light uses 30% less sugar than the regular Yakult. However, there are still 1.5
teaspoons in that tiny shot glass sized serve. Though this (apparently) doesn't leave a sweet
enough product. How do I know this? Well because the light Yakult drink includes an
artificial sweetener. Specifically, sweetener 995, also known as sucralose. Now artificial
sweeteners are a controversial topic. Some people believe they are linked to all sorts
of illnesses including cancer, whereas others think they are safe. Personally, I avoid them
where possible.

My concern however (and this is a common theme with all of these points) is why not avoid
it all together? Why risk potential dangers from an artificial chemical, when you can eat real
food and achieve the same benefit, or even use a supplement and avoid the sugar and the

7) Plastic Bottles
According to Yakults website:

Yakults unique-shaped plastic bottles are produced on-site from triple food grade
polystyrene pellets using injection blow-moulding machines. Pellets are melted and injected
under pressure onto core rods.

Just great.

We are starting to realise that plastic is not necessarily the best form of packaging when it
comes to health. Plastics have been shown to leech into food products and disrupt our
endocrine system, impact our hormonal and reproductive systems, and have even been linked
to cancer and neurological damage. (source - Harmful Plastics). As per reason 6, why even
put yourself through the risk? Eat real food or pop a tablet instead.

8) Flavoring
Looking back at the ingredient list we see 'Flavours'. Is this really required? We have enough
sugar in there to make it palatable to even the fussiest eater. And it's meant to be a health
drink, not a competitor to coca cola (though it is sweet enough to compete rather well I must
say!) I know taste is important for a products success, but my concerns are:

1) What actually is this 'flavouring' ingredient? I'm pretty sure they're not squeezing organic
lemon juice into each bottle.

2) It brings me to the question again - why get your probiotics in drink format with all the
sugar, processed milk and added 'flavours', why not just take a tablet and receive all same
Sometimes popping a pill is the better option!

9) Price
Woolworths sells a 5 pack of Yakult for $3.95. This works out to be 79 cents per serve. If
you're taking 1 week thats $5.53 per week. If you're a family of 5, thats $27.65 per week for a
sweeter than coca-cola probiotic drink.

Now I admit that this is a lot cheaper than a top of the range probiotic supplement. But, it's
still a lot more expensive than eating probiotic rich fermented foods. Especially if you
are making your own.

10) Convenience
Probiotic drinks such as Yakult require constant cold temperature storage. Alot of the top
quality probiotic supplements on the market such as Thorne Floramend are heat stable and do
not require refrigeration. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I personally consume
my probiotics in the form of fermented foods. However, occasionally I don't have any in
pantry, or perhaps I'm away travelling for a few days. This is where the supplement form
comes in handy. Its heat stable so I can throw the container in my suitcase and know that my
gut will be well looked after no matter where I am.

11) Effectiveness
My final point. Although probiotics are very important for optimal gut health, and there are
some studies showing the effectiveness of Yakult's patented L. casei Shirota strain, it may not
be the 'wonder strain' that it's made out to be.

This taken from Suppversity

Probiotic supplements don't cure everything - although many ads may give just this
impression. In a recently published study, Swiss researchers were not able to show any
beneficial effects of the patented L. casei Shirota strain on the increased gut permeability of
28 patients with metabolic syndrome (Leber. 2012). In the course of the three months study
period, it rather exasperated the already elevated C-reactive protein levels, due to
liposaccharide leakage through the leaky gut into the system and I bet the only reason that
the conclusion states that the dosage may have been too low instead of "this is initial
evidence that the use of L. casei Shirota is not useful if not counter-indicated in to treat gut
permeability in patients with MetS", was the financial support by Yakult Europe the patent
holder of L. casei Shirota ;-)

And this article from The Perfect Health Diet looks at other common probiotic drink strains:

Probiotic Supplements Are Inadequate For Serious Gut Issues

Most supermarket probiotics contain Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium species. These species

are specialized for digesting milk; they populate the guts of infants as they start
breastfeeding, and are used by the dairy industry to ferment cheeses and yogurt.

These supplements are very effective at fighting acute diarrhea from most food-borne
infections. A fistful of probiotic capsules taken every hour will usually quickly supplant the
pathogens and end diarrhea.

However, against more severe bowel diseases caused by chronic infections and featuring
damaged intestinal mucosa, these species are usually not helpful. One issue is that they
provide only a tiny part of a healthful adult microbiome.

Update on Yakults Effectiveness:

After communication with Yakult Australia, they pointed out that the study listed (Leber
2012) on the SuppVersity website was not conclusive evidence that the strain of bacteria used
in Yakults products were ineffective. They also claimed that their strain was well researched
and proven to improve health conditions.

The Leber study in question concluded:

Gut permeability of MetS patients was increased significantly compared with healthy
controls. L. casei Shirota administration in the MetS patients did not have any influence on
any parameter tested possibly due to too-short study duration or underdosing of L. casei

A quick search on PubMed dug up this study that found the LcS strain to be ineffective at
changing health markers:

This study - Effect of Lactobacillus casei Shirota supplementation on trimethylamine-

N-oxide levels in patients with metabolic syndrome: An open-label, randomized
study. Found that the LcS strain did not assist with lowering TMAO levels - high
levels are linked to heart disease.

But those are two fairly basic studies.

To be completely fair to Yakult, I looked for more studies on the effectiveness of the L.c.S
strain. Within minutes I had numerous papers that found the LcS strain to have a positive
health affect. Some of these papers are listed below:

Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota prevents the onset of
physical symptoms in medical students under academic examination stress.
The effect of five probiotic lactobacilli strains on the growth and biofilm formation of
Streptococcus mutans.
Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota protects against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
development in a rodent model.
Effect of Lactobacillus casei on the Production of Pro-Inflammatory Markers in
Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats.

I don't want to turn this article into a literature review. I simply included point 11 -
Effectiveness - to show that the LcS Strain used by Yakult may not be for everyone. This
article isn't intended to be an investigation on what are the best probiotic strands, but instead
showcasing how simply eating naturally fermented foods is a better alternative to drinking
processed probiotics.

Closing Thoughts
In a nutshell, probiotics are good and we should be ingesting them. Drinking our probiotics in
sugar laden, ultra processed drinks encased in plastic is perhaps not the best method. Instead,
eating fermented foods are a much more healthier and cheaper option.

Unsure what foods to eat? CLICK HERE to download my FREE top probiotic guide.
Failing that, a supplement should be considered. A quality supplement with a broad range of
probiotic strains that doesn't require refrigeration and that comes in a acid-resistant capsule
such as Thorne Floramend would be the next best option.

Do you drink daily Probiotic drinks? And after reading this, will you continue to buy them?
I'd love to know your thoughts after reading this blog.

I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Yakult Australia in regards to this article. After
some back and forth communication - including me pressing them for explanations on their
ingredient and manufacturing decisions Yakult Australia decided to send me (and you
readers) an offical statement in response to the questions I sent them and the statements made
within this article.

Their full statement is listed below, but before we get to that I wanted to say I was impressed
with Yakults response and can understand that they are aiming to appeal to the mass market -
not extreme health nuts like myself! Anyway, please see the full response by Yakult Australia

Official Response by Yakult Australia


A small amount is required for fermentation, to allow the strain to grow and multiply. Sugar
is later added for taste; the lactic acid produced by the LcS strain would otherwise make the
product taste sour. Historically, Yakult was introduced in Japan when infectious diseases and
malnutrition were common, to encourage wide spread appeal, it was made with a palatable
flavour. This flavour profile has remained consistent since the introduction of Yakult over 80
years ago. Yakult LIGHT was introduced in 2004, to help meet consumer expectations for a
reduced sugar product. We are commitment to continual product development in line with
consumer feedback and ongoing product research. It is important to consider the purpose and
size of Yakult when making a product comparison, a serve of Yakult is 65ml/bottle, in
comparison to soft drinks at 375ml/can or a 250ml/cup. It would appear simplistic to criticise
sugar alone, when a balanced moderate calorie diet across the day is more vital to health. A
bottle of Yakult contains the same amount of calories as a small apple.

Skim Milk Powder

The sole purpose of the milk used in Yakult is to provide a solution to encourage the growth
and viability of the live beneficial bacteria, while providing an excellent medium to deliver
the probiotic to the human gut. In the context of probiotic capsules, you wouldnt expect the
nutritional benefits of vegetables while consuming a probiotic encapsulated in a vegetable
capsule, the same way you wouldnt expect to get the benefit of milk from drinking Yakult.

Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT)

Technically speaking Yakult does not use conventional UHT processes of heating milk to
over 135C, as described in your source Weston A Price Foundation and by Dairy
Australias definition. We heat the initial milk solution to 120C for a few seconds; this
temperature eliminates the risk of harmful microbial growth, and is also a critical control
point in our HACCP safety principles.


Homogenisation is a necessary requirement for Yakult; otherwise the product would be thick
and lumpy (a consistency similar to cottage cheese) and generally not palatable for
consumers. Milk used in Yakult provides a nutritious medium for the beneficial bacteria, and
virtually all milk available for human consumption in Australia goes through a
homogenisation process.


Sucralose is added in Yakult LIGHT to ensure a consistent flavour profile between Yakult
Original and Yakult LIGHT, as there is 30% less sugar in the Yakult LIGHT product. While
the quantities used in Yakult Light are safe for human consumption and permitted for use
under the Food Standards Code, we understand consumers personal decisions about the type
of foods and ingredients that they choose to consumer or avoid. In line with consumer
feedback and product research, we are actively looking at the use of other sweeteners for
future product application.


Generally Yakult flavours can be described as a blend of vanilla and citrus oils. We are only
able to disclose general terms regarding the flavour, as you would appreciate; the precise
flavour recipe is commercial in confidence.

What is your reaction to this response by Yakult? Please post your feedback and thoughts in
the comments section below.

Here is my reaction:

Alex's Official Response to Yakult Australia's Response!

Sugar: Fair enough, for your product to sell it needs to taste great. And valid point regarding
serving size, but there is still 11.4g of sugar in one serve! That is nearly 3 teaspoons of sugar!
I believe many Yakult drinkers would be surprised to hear that there was added sugar in their
Yakult (in fact, a quik skim through the comments section below supports this belief), and
many people wouldn't willingly down 3 teaspoons of sugar every morning in the name of

Skim Milk Powder: I think Yakult Australia have missed the point. Sure skim milk powder
is lower in nutrients when compared to full fat milk, but my concern (as discussed in point 2
above) is about the harmful effects of skim milk powder. These effects can be mitigated by
using full fat powder, or even better, full fat milk.
UHT: I understand that this is often used for legal reasons (food safety), though I personally
believe if food is from a quality source and has been stored & prepared well it should be safe.
But rules are rules so I can understand Yakult's point here. (Though it is another reason why
simply eating fermented foods could be an easier/healthier option?)

Homogenisation: Again, appealing to the masses and manufacturing efficiencies ($$$). I

understand. My thoughts are simple - homogenisation can destroy food, and make them
inferior from a health point of view. It goes back to what I said before - simply eat natural
fermented foods and avoid UHT, homogenisation etc. Oh, and what's wrong with cottage

Sucralose: Following the rules again. Fair enough, though I must give credit to Yakult for
seeking out potential alternatives to their use ofSucralose (though actions are a lot more
powerful than words). And they still didn't state why they use a sweetener AND added sugar.

Flavouring: The recipe is a secret, but generally (why generally - sometimes to they mix
things up and experiment with otheringredients) they use a blend of vanilla & citrus oils. It's
anyones guess as to what these exactly are....

So there we have it. The great Yakult Debate! Please chime in with your thoughts and
reactions below. I would love to hear them!

If you are looking for a simple, healthy way to boost your probiotic intake naturally, be sure
to CLICK HERE to download my simple natural probiotic guide.