In these challenging times, life is on a fast track with unbalanced diet, stress, lack of physical activity, irregular working hours and pollution, each one of these factors has taken its toll on our health. It is also a known fact that lifestyle disorders like obesity and diabetes and Non-Communicable Diseases like cancer are on the  rise. In an exclusive blogger familiarisation for select folk-Yakult, India, organised an information packed day, on all things Probiotics, at their Delhi Headquarters. 
The Insider with Dr Neerja Hajela and fellow Bloggers 
Why Probiotics?
With a focus on ‘Prevention being better than Cure’ the spotlight is on good bacteria, or Probiotics”. So, these act by favorably modulating the gut microbiota and result in improvement of health and prevention of diseaseDetailing the nuances of Probiotics, Dr Neerja Hajela, Head – Science and Regulatory Affairs, Yakult Danone India Pvt. Ltd. says, “Increasingly it is becoming clear that the gut microbiome and its associated metabolites are involved in obesity, autoimmune disorders, neurological diseases, cancer, childhood undernutrition, and immunity to both enteric and systemic infections among others.”
I take this opportunity to ask her pertinent questions around the topic! 

Curd, yogurt buttermilk are traditionally consumed for gut health in India. Are they probiotics? Why/Why not?

Curd, yoghurt and buttermilk are traditional fermented foods that are consumed for their nutritional value like Protein, Calcium, Vitamins  etc. They are not true probiotics since they are  fermented using different types of lactic acid bacteria whose number and types are unknown. These bacteria are not tested for their ability to reach the intestine live in large numbers to impart scientifically proven health benefits.

Probiotics on the other hand contain high concentration of a unique lactic acid bacteria that has been tested for its ability to reach the intestine live and impart scientifically proven health benefits. Most probiotics help to improve  intestinal health and build immunity. They, therefore ensure that the intestine is functioning well to digest food and absorb nutrients properly. Probiotics also help to build immunity since about 70% of the immune cells are found in the intestine and therefore reduce the risk of disease.   

Therefore the concept of probiotics, which although available in the form of dairy products, is based on strengthening the intestine to absorb nutrients from foods including traditional fermented foods making the two categories very different.   

What does it take for a product to became  a natural pro-biotic? Fermentation?

Probiotic bacteria have to be tested for their ability  to tolerate the harsh acidic environment of the stomach and reach the intestine live in large numbers ( normally more than 1 billion). Once in the intestine they improve the environment, suppress the growth of harmful bacteria and increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria that are absolutely essential for digestion of food, absorption of nutrients. These bacteria also play an important role in building immunity and reducing the risk of disease. 

To achieve the said number of probiotic bacteria in any product the fermentation procedures are long and tedious and are very strictly controlled for their temperature, pH, acidity levels etc. Probiotic products are therefore produced in very strict environments and cannot be made using the normal fermentation procedures like those used at home to make traditional fermented foods.

And no the most important of them all…

How is Yakult trying to minimise its use of plastic bottles in its packaging.
Yakult’s philosophy is to provide health and happiness and therefore we will not do anything that will disturb or destroy the environment in India. We will soon be indicating the kind of plastic( not multi-layer plastic) that we use for manufacturing our product so that it can be recycled and reused. We have  also indicated the Garbage bin mark which is a plea to the consumer to discard the bottle in the right place i.e. dustbins. We are also in the process of evaluating how best we can recycle plastic bottles and limit plastic use for packaging and distribution although the current PS bottles are strong and ideal to keep the probiotic fermented milk drink safe and also are a part of our manufacturing process in the world and therefore difficult to replace. It may take some time till we can develop any alternative materials for our bottles. We care about people and believe in keeping the environment clean and will be taking all measures to ensure that we can contribute to making India not just a healthy but a clean country.

Reiterating the scientific heritage of Yakult, Dr. Hajela added, “Yakult contains 6.5 billion Lactobacillus caseistrain Shirota that has been tested for its ability to improve digestion and build immunity by increasing the activity of Natural Killer cells that attack viruses and cancer cells. One of the largest community based study that was conducted on approx. 4000 children in the age group of 1- 5 years at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) in Kolkata showed that consumption of Yakult for 12 weeks resulted in 14% reduction in incidence of diarrhoea. This was a very useful finding especially in country like India where diarrhoea kills 3 lakh children every year.”
Did you know?
This iconic brand sells more than 3.5 crore bottles everyday in 38 countries and regions. To address the growing demand and in line with the needs of the Indian consumer, there is now a Yakult Light which is a sister product of the signature Yakult product and contains the same unique probiotic, Lactobacillus caseistrain Shirota (LcS), in the same amount (6.5 billion). With reduced sugar and Vitamin D and E, Yakult Light caters for the daily needs of the health conscious and is suitable for all age groups. It contains less sugar and calories owing to the use of a sweetener of natural origin, Steviol Glycoside.
Go ahead and include Yakult in your daily life and ensure strong immunity! I have!
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