For years, bacteria have been added to milk products to create yogurt. These bacteria are not harmful to your body, but instead help to create the consistency and flavor you enjoy in yogurt. One example of a bacteria-containing yogurt is Activia. This yogurt incorporates a proprietary bacterial culture the company claims enhances your digestive health.
Activia yogurt is produced with the probiotic -- meaning it contains bacteria -- Bifidus Regularis, scientifically known as Bifidobacterium lactis, according to the official Activia website. The company claims the probiotic survives in the digestive tract, helping to benefit your digestive system. When consumed on a daily basis for a period of two weeks, the Activia company website claims the bacteria can "help to naturally regulate your digestive system." However, the company does not make claims that the yogurt helps to reduce specific medical conditions like constipation.
Constipation is a gastrointestinal condition where your stool does not move as well through your digestive system as it could. This is problematic because it can result in hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass. Causes of constipation include lack of dietary fiber and dehydration or a complicating medical condition like irritable bowel syndrome. One of the reasons why Activia has been linked with benefits in reducing constipation is because Activia contains fiber, which can bind with your stool to create bulk, making it easier to pass. Also, the bacteria contained within Activia can help encourage digestion in the intestines, which may help to break down foods more easily and increase the frequency of when you pass a stool. However, this link between the bacteria in Activia and reducing constipation has not been fully proven.
Federal Trade Commission Case
Although Activia's parent company Dannon claims the probiotic bacteria in its yogurt can help to relieve digestive issues like constipation, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined the company for making claims that could not be conclusively proven. In 2010, the FTC fined Dannon $21 million in settlement fees because the company could not substantiate via outside research studies -- the previous studies Dannon had used to support its claims were from the company's own research study in France.
While research studies have not proven Activia can help to relieve constipation, anecdotal evidence does exist. "There have been no good, double-blind studies to show they [yogurts containing probiotics] are absolutely beneficial," said Dr. Carey Strom, an associate clinical professor at UCLA School of Medicine interviewed on CBS News. "But patients seem to get some benefits, some relief, from certain gastrointestinal problems. They can't hurt and they may help," Strom adds.