Activia yogurt is a yogurt brand produced by Danone. This fermented milk product is available in a variety of different flavors, all containing probiotic bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are good for the health of your digestive system and can positively affect the gut-brain connection.
Read more: 13 Surprising and Beneficial Probiotic Foods
Activia yogurt products are considered to be healthy because they are low-fat or non-fat probiotic yogurts. Activia yogurt products contain billions of the patented probiotic culture Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010/CNCM I-2494.
Activia Yogurt Products
There are a wide variety of Activia yogurt products. These yogurts include Activia Fruit, which comes in flavors like mixed berry, black cherry, mango and strawberry, and Activia Fruit on the Bottom, which comes in blended fruit flavors like strawberry-raspberry, pineapple-coconut and peach-mango.
Activia also sells a line of fiber-rich yogurts called Activia Fiber, a mixture of fruits and cereals, nonfat Greek yogurt, lactose-free yogurt and light yogurts that contain no fat or sugar. Regardless of product type, all of Activia's products have some sort of fruit or flavoring; there are no plain yogurt products. Activia also has a range of prebiotic and probiotic yogurt-based beverages.
All Activia products are considered to be probiotics. This means that they contain healthy bacteria that can improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract. As fermented milk products, all yogurts have some bacteria in them: all yogurts contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Probiotic yogurts are those with additional live and active cultures. According to the Harvard Medical School, probiotic bacteria include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus gasseri
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidus regularis (_an alternate name for _Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010)
- Enterococcus faecium
- Saccharomyces boulardii
Live and Active Culture Seal
Activia yogurt products are particularly healthy, as they are made with billions of live and active cultures. They bear the National Yogurt Association's Live and Active Culture Seal, which means that they contain a minimum of 100 million live cultures per gram. This means that the average 4-ounce Activia yogurt product has more than 11 billion live bacterial cultures.
When buying yogurt, you should be aware that not all yogurt products bear this seal. Yogurt products with too few cultures won't carry this seal, nor will heat-treated products that kill their live and active cultures. Other yogurts with probiotics that bear the National Yogurt Association seal include brands like Yoplait, Yo-Plus, Yogurbella, Mountain High Yoghurt and La Yogurt.
Activia Yogurt Ingredients
Activia ingredients differ from product to product but are typically made using milk, starch, gelatin, natural flavorings and some form of sweetener. The main difference between products is whether they are "standard" or "light."
For example, Activia Vanilla Probiotic Yogurt is made of :
- Cultured grade A reduced fat milk
- Cane sugar
- Modified food starch
- Less than 1 percent of milk protein concentrate
- Kosher gelatin
- Natural flavors
- Agar agar
- Lactic acid
- Vitamin D3
- Milk calcium
In contrast, Activia Light Vanilla Probiotic Yogurt is made from:
- Cultured grade A non-fat milk
- Modified food starch
- Less than 1 percent of acacia gum
- Modified corn starch
- Kosher gelatin
- Natural vanilla flavor
- Acesulfame potassium
- Malic acid
- Xanthan gum
- Milk calcium
This means that the primary differences between light and regular products are their use of sweeteners and the type of milk.
All Activia Yogurt contains fruit flavoring or vanilla flavoring, which means that Activia products are all sweetened in some way. While some Activia products use cane sugar, light products contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener, also known as Splenda.
Sucralose is a nonnutritive sweetener; although it has 450 to 650 times the sweetness of sucrose, it has no calories or carbohydrates. Sucralose has been FDA approved since 1999 and is now the most commonly used artificial sweetener. However, you should be aware that sucralose may not be suitable for everyone.
According to a June 2016 review in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, sucralose is able to trigger glycemic responses, hormonal responses and increase the risk of obesity, even though it's a nonnutritive sweetener. An October 2016 review in the journal Physiology and Behavior also showed that artificial sweeteners like sucralose can be bad for your digestive system, as they can affect your gastrointestinal microbiome.
Nonnutritive sweeteners have historically been considered to pass through the body undigested, without affecting you. Studies like these have shown that this is not the case, which means that such products may be unsuitable for people with issues like metabolic syndromes, insulin sensitivity or digestive system disorders.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Although they are far apart in your body, your brain and gut are connected through neuronal pathways. The gut and brain are directly linked via a long cranial nerve called the vagus nerve. However, this linkage isn't only related to the function of your nerves; the healthy bacteria that colonize your gastrointestinal system can affect your health too.
The connection between your gut and brain is able to affect various aspects of your health, including your mental health, personality traits, immune system function and risk for chronic gut problems. With about 100 trillion bacteria that reside in your body, it's important to keep your gut microbiome healthy to minimize the risk of such issues.
Activia products can help improve the health of your gut microbiome and the gut-brain connection. Like other probiotic foods, the healthy bacteria in yogurt benefits your health by supporting the healthy bacteria that already reside in your gut. These bacteria may even be able to take up residence in your microbiome.
Activia specifically uses probiotics that can minimize digestive issues like rumbling stomachs, bloating, gas and stomach and intestinal discomfort. However, probiotics may be able to help with a range of issues, including improving lactose intolerance, digestion, weight control and immune system function.
Ultimately, this means that Activia is a healthy product that can positively affect your digestive system and microbiome. However, given the questionable effects of sucralose on the digestive system, you may want to stay away from Activia Light products and other products with sucralose. While nonnutritive sweeteners like sucralose may have no negative effect, sucralose could also potentially counteract the positive effects of probiotics.
- Activia: "Probiotic Yogurts"
- Activia: "Activia Probiotic Yogurt – FAQs"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Benefits of Probiotics Bacteria"
- AboutYogurt.com: "Live & Active Culture Yogurt"
- International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications: "The Evolution, Processing, Varieties and Health Benefits of Yogurt"
- Activia: "Activia Vanilla Probiotic Yogurt"
- Activia: "Activia Light Vanilla Probiotic Yogurt"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Artificial Sweeteners – a Review"
- FDA: "Additional Information About High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States"
- Indian Journal of Pharmacology: "Artificial Sweeteners as a Sugar Substitute: Are They Really Safe?"
- Physiology & Behavior: "Reshaping the Gut Microbiota: Impact of Low Calorie Sweeteners and the Link to Insulin Resistance?"
- Frontiers in Neuroscience: "The Vagus Nerve at the Interface of the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis"
- Nature Microbiology: "GABA-Modulating Bacteria of the Human Gut Microbiota."
- Activia: "The Gut-Brain Connection"