Activia is a probiotic yogurt or smoothie that is marketed by the Danone company (Dannon in the US) to help with occasional constipation as long as 3 servings per day are consumed. It contains the beneficial bacteria B. lactis DN-173010, scientifically known as Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis DN-173010. In the US, Dannon calls this probiotic "Bifidus Regularis". For more information on Bifidus Regularis and on its various names in other countries, click here.
This product is considered to be a probiotic yogurt or probiotic smoothie because according to the Dannon website, it contains a sufficient quantity of live probiotic microbes to deliver health benefits. They say that it is suitable for the entire family.
Dannon does not state exactly how many CFU's of B. lactis DN-173010 are in the yogurt items on the product label on the website, but a review of the research on it showed that the products used in the studies contained from 100 million with elderly adults using a predecessor product called "BIOS", to at least 6 billion CFU with children in 2009 using Activia per container. If the 2009 level is true of the product on stores shelves today, then if you were to eat the recommended 3 servings per day, you would be consuming at least 18 billion CFU of B. lactis DN-173010.
Since this food of from Dannon is a yogurt product, it also contains the required yogurt cultures L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus as live cultures.
There were a few lawsuits (with compensation available) filed in Canada and the US against Dannon for false claims about it's Activia products in recent years. The result is that no health claims can be made unless the 3 servings per day are advertised. If you've been a fan of these products, you may wish to search the internet for the various lawsuits, as you may be eligible for a portion of compensation. Here is a link to the Canadian CBC News in Montreal with information on reimbursement.
There are many different Activia products around the world, so the ingredients will vary according to country. Because of this, I'm just going to comment in general terms about those in the United States. Please always read ingredients lists before you buy and consume any product.
To begin with, only one of the products, Stoneyfield Organic, is certified gluten free and is wheat free. The others either contain wheat directly or are manufactured in a facility that processes wheat. The Organic one is also the only one which should not contain genetically-modified ingredients (GMO's); however it is not known for certain if the others have GMO's in them. My guess is that any cornstarch is probably genetically modified (GMO) since most corn in the US is GMO, unless stated otherwise.
Also, except for the plain yogurt, each of them has added sugars. The amounts of these sugars can add up to lots of empty calories in a diet, especially if you are eating the recommended 3 servings per day.
Each product is made from reduced-fat milk except for the Light version which is made from nonfat milk and Harvest Picks yogurt which is made from regular milk. The milk used probably comes from cows treated with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) since the products do not state otherwise.
There are 8 options with Dannon's Bifidus Regularis in the US, and I've made a few comments after each based on online information available in October, 2012. Please note that the things I commented on are either allergy alerts, ingredients which are controversial in the nutrition community, or added vitamin D3.
There are other ingredients in addition to the ones I commented on, and other flavors, unless I stated otherwise. "Carbs" is an abbreviation for "total carbohydrates". Nutrition facts shown are per container unless otherwise indicated. The letter 'g' means "grams."
Activia - Blueberry has cornstarch, gelatin, fructose, Vitamin D3. Calories=130, 2 g of fat, 23 g of carbs with 19 of those from sugars, less than 1 g of fiber, 4 g of protein.
Activia Light - Blueberry has cornstarch, gelatin, fructose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose. Calories= 70, 0 g fat, 13 g of carbs with 9 of those from sugars, 2 g of fiber, 4 g of protein.
Activia Harvest Picks - Strawberry has cornstarch and artificial flavors. Calories=110, 3.5 g of fat, 16 g of total carbs with 15 of those from sugars, 0 g of fiber, 4 g of protein.
Activia Parfait - Strawberry has a predominantly wheat flakes-based granola in a top container. It also has corn starch, gelatin and is produced in a plant processing soy, peanuts and tree nuts. Calories-220, 3 g of fat, 42 g of carbs with 30 of those from sugars, 2 g of fiber, 7 g of protein.
Activia Breakfast Blend - Apple Cinnamon has corn starch, gelatin and is manufactured in a plant processing soy and tree nuts. Calories-190, 3 g of fat, 30 g of carbs with 25 of them from sugars, 0 g of fiber, 11 g of protein.
Activia Fiber - Strawberry and Fiber has cornstarch and gelatin. Calories=110, 2 g of fat, 20 g of carbs with 16 of those from sugars, 3 g of fiber, 4 g of protein.
Activia Drinks - Mango has cornstarch, potassium sorbate as a preservative, and fructose. Calories=170, 3 g of fat, 28 g of carbs with 26 of those from sugars, 0 g fiber, 6 g of protein.
Stoneyfield Organic Activia - Strawberry has vitamin D3. Calories=90, 1 g of fat, 16 g of carbs with 15 of those from sugars, 0 g of fiber, 5 g of protein.
Activia 24 oz. tubs - Plain has only reduced fat milk, cornstarch and the active cultures as ingredients. Per 4 ounce: Calories=90, 2.5 g of fat, 10 g of carbs with 9 of those from sugars, 0 g of fiber, 6 g of protein.
Only you and/or your qualified healthcare professional can decide if any of these Dannon products are right for you. From a nutrition standpoint, my opinion is that the best options are the Plain (but it does have cornstarch which may be GMO and is probably made from milk from cows treated with rBGH)) and the Stoneyfield Organic (which is organic, so no GMO ingredients or rBGH, but still has added sugar like the others.) The other products have a lot of ingredients that I feel are not necessary when you're trying to eat whole, cultured foods, particularly if you are consuming the recommended 3 servings per day.
In case you aren't familiar with GMO's - genetically modified ingredients - you can find out more information here. My opinion is that since most of the corn, canola, cottonseed and soy products made in the US are genetically-modified, unless a product specifically says it does not contain GMO versions of those crops, it's safe to assume that it does.
Also note that since most, if not all, of these items are low in fiber, if you eat them you'll still have to eat fibrous foods to feed the Bifidobacterium and other probiotic microbes that live within you. Otherwise, the sugars may also feed opportunistic microbes that compete with the probiotics.
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