Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Yogurt and Probiotics - Part 2

Yesterday I told you that Dannon settled a class action suit over health and medical claims it made about its yogurts.

We've all seen the ads in which a glowing Jamie Leigh Curtis, the picture of 50-year-old health, smilingly spoons Activia while an off-screen announcer states that Activia is "clinically proven to regulate your digestive system in two weeks." Regulate is a code word here that means promotes a bowel movement in those with constipation. The collective twelve-year-old mentality of our humor community being what it is, more of the younger generation have probably seen the parodies of the ads on programs like Saturday Night Live than the original ads aimed at their parents and run during the national news programs along with ten thousand commercials for bladder fitness and erectile dysfunction.

Adweek reported that the ad campaign wrought the kind of health benefits on Dannon's bottom line that they could wish for in their yogurt:

In its first year, Activia sales soared to over $130 million, more than three times Dannon's original forecasts. The launch not only created a new powerhouse franchise for the world's largest yogurt company in the U.S., it helped drive one of the hottest new functional food categories: those containing probiotic ingredients.

Once we're past the cheap laughs, we get to the very adult issues of false and deceptive advertising. The lawsuit filed against Dannon claimed that:
Dannon’s own studies disproved the company’s boasts and that a study conducted by leading microbiologist and funded by Dannon determined in 2006 that there was "no conclusive evidence" of probiotics providing health benefits. The report, entitled "Probiotic Microbes: The Scientific Basis," was prepared by the American Academy of Microbiology, a leadership group of the American Society of Microbiology, the suit claims.

As another SNL bit asks, Really?

Under the settlement terms, Dannon will also change some language on Activia products, stating that the yogurt will help regulate the digestive system, IF eaten for two weeks and as part of a healthy lifestyle. The DanActive products will be changed from stating they have a positive effect on the immune system to "interact" with the digestive system's immune system.

DanActive had the word IMMUNITY in big capital letters on its bottles and was making health claims right and left. You can see it still on the DanActive site, although I don't know how long that will last.

If you were a DanActive or Activia user, you can sign up to get a cash refund at this settlement web page.

And maybe you should start saving those receipts if you eat Yo-Plus. The same Adweek article cited above also reported that on March 17, 2009, the same law firm

CSGR&R filed a class action suit in a Southern Florida District Court citing Yo-Plus' claims that its trademarked "exclusive" Optibalance bacteria cultures regulate digestive health in a way other yogurts do not.

Similar to language in the suit against Dannon, the complaint against Yo-Plus alleges, "General Mills has no support for these claims, even though it states that it does, going so far as to claim it has clinical proof. General Mills' representations are false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public."

The suit further asserts, "General Mills' own studies fail to support this advertising message, and a number of them flatly contradict General Mills' claims. In fact, General Mills has never tested Yo-Plus for its ability to deliver the unique health benefits claimed in its advertising campaign."

Functional foods, foods with special nutrients or cultures added to promote health, are probably good for you in some ways, if you take care to watch that you're not just having a sugary treat disguised as medicine. The kicker is in the line that must be added. "IF eaten for two weeks and as part of a healthy lifestyle." The healthy lifestyle must come first. Functional foods aren't magic potions that substitute for doing right, exercising right, and eating right in the first place.

Do you really even need functional foods if you do all that? That's the $64 million question.

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