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Making yogurt got complicated:

Jacob Schor ND

August 7, 2011



Making yogurt used to be simple.  Heat up some milk until it’s hot, let it cool until it is lukewarm, then add some yogurt bacteria and then keep it warm, typically overnight, until it looks like yogurt.  For yogurt bacteria you could either use some of your last batch or stir a spoon or two of store bought yogurt.  Simple.


That’s how it used to be.  These days it is suddenly complicated.  The complexity is in what sort of bacteria to add to the milk. Even if you use store bought yogurt as a starter there are numerous choices of specialty yogurts with various health claims attached.  At one point you could just buy a little container of Dannon.  The plain one.  Now you have to decide between the Activa strain of bacteria, or Align, or the Greek or countless other varieties.  In theory they all have active yogurt bacteria in them and can be used as a starter for your next batch.  In theory. The exotic sheep’s milk yogurt I tried last week was a dud.  It didn’t ferment so one would assume it had no live bacteria in it.


Instead of store bought yogurt as a starter culture, another option is to use one of the probiotic supplements.  In theory, as they all claim to contain billions on billions of live bacteria in every dose, these should make nice yogurts.


This option opens up endless possibilities as there are numerous strains of bacteria sold as probiotics, all of which fall into the general family of Lactobacilli acidophilus. 


Many of these probiotic bacteria have been selectively bred to have specific biochemical actions and in theory we can use them to create designer yogurts with specific health benefits.


For example we can choose Azodyl as a yogurt starter.  This probiotic is sold for veterinary purposes.  The company that makes it claims they have bred the bacteria to neutralize toxic ammonia compounds in the digestive track and they sell it to treat cats and dogs in kidney failure.  Kibow Biotics, pretty much an identical product is marketed for humans with kidney failure promising it will act as an enteric dialysis option.  This might be a really good choice for our old cat. 


In a September 2010 report on the results of a human clinical trial with patients in stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease, blood urinary nitrogen (BUN) decreased significantly in 63% of the 46 patients.   Thus we may be able to make yogurt to treat kidney disease.


Or there is VSL # 3, a probiotic designed to treat inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.  Both these diseases are auto immune disease in which one’s immune system attacks one’s own body tissue.  VSL#3 is often suggested to patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. One would have to assume that if taking pills filled with these strains of bacteria are good for ulcerative colitis, then yogurt made from the same bacteria would be good for the same condition.


Then there is the MindLinx acidophilus sold by Pharmax.  According to one enthusiastic website, this stuff,  “…. is the first probiotic specifically developed for those with gluten and casein intolerance including: Autism, ADHD, Celiac & food allergies. HLC Mindlinx probiotic helps process exomorphins in foods which are neuroexcitotoxins.”  So in theory this is supposed to help people who get nutso after eating certain foods.  Unfortunately people tell me that this happens to them or their kids or their spouses more often than sounds like fun.  So it sounds like we can make yogurt for nutty people, those who get weird after eating certain foods, in particular wheat and milk.


If this is sounding like too many choices, check out UAS laboratories website, ( sellers of DDS lactobacilli and a host of other related critters. Their DDS-1 strain apparently slows tumor growth.   So perhaps this strain should be used to make yogurt for people with cancer.  The same strain of bacteria decreases atopic dermatitis in children.


A recent double-blinded placebo controlled trial reports that two specific strains of bacteria reduced incidence of the common cold. Thus perhaps we could make some yogurt specific for people who fall ill too often and too easily.


Alas, while I’ve been sitting here reading and thinking about these matters, the milk has cooled and it’s time to stir in some starter bacteria and discover if they are dead or alive, as the label claims. 


Yogurt making directions:  There are no shortage of websites that will instruct you in making your own yogurt.  Here’s one:


Reference Abstracts:


Adv Ther. 2010 Sep;27(9):634-47. Epub 2010 Aug 16.

Pilot study of probiotic dietary supplementation for promoting healthy kidney function in patients with chronic kidney disease.

Ranganathan N, Ranganathan P, Friedman EA, Joseph A, Delano B, Goldfarb DS, Tam P, Rao AV, Anteyi E, Musso CG.


Kibow Biotech, Inc., 4629 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, PA 19073, USA.



Uremic syndrome consists of nitrogenous waste retention, deficiency in kidney-derived hormones, and reduced acid excretion, and, if untreated, may progress to coma and eventual death. Previous experience suggests that oral administration of a probiotic formulation of selected microbial strains may extend renoprotection via intraintestinal extraction of toxic waste solutes in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD)stages 3 and 4. This report presents preliminary data from a pilot study.



This was a 6-month prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial of a probiotic bacterial formulation conducted in four countries, at five institutions, on 46 outpatients with CKD stages 3 an nd 4: USA (n=10), Canada (n=113), Nigeria (n=115), and Argentina (n=8). Outcomes were compared using biochemical parameters:blood urea nitrogen (BUN), serum creatinine, and uric acid. General well-being was assessed as a secondary parameter by a quality of life (QQOL) questionnaire on a subjective scale of 1-10.



Oral ingestion of probiotics (90 billion colony forming units [CFUs]/day) was well tolerated and safe during the entire trial period at all sites. BUN levels decreased in 29 patients (63%, P<0.05), creatinine levels decreased in 20 patients (43%, no statistical significance), and uric acid levels decreased in 15 patients (33%, no statistical significance). Almost all subjects expressed a perceived substantial overall improvement in QOL (86%, P<0.05).



The main outcomes of this preliminary trial include a significant reduction of BUN, enhanced well-being, and absence of serious adverse effects, thus supporting the use of the chosen probiotic formulation for bowel-based toxic solute extraction. QOL and BUN levels showed statistically significant differences in outcome (P<0.05) between placebo and probiotic treatment periods at all four sites (46 patients). A major limitation of this trial is the small sample size nd elated inconsistencies.


PMID: 20721651 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Evid Based Med. 2011 Aug;16(4):108-9. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Treatment with the probiotic VSL#3 as an adjunctive therapy in relapsing mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis significantly reduces ulcerative colitis disease activity.

Turcotte JF, Huynh HQ.

Probiotics (VSL#3) in arthralgia in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease: a pilot study.

Karimi O, Peña AS, van Bodegraven AA.

Drugs Today (Barc). 2005 Jul;41(7):453-9.

Nutr Cancer. 1997;28(2):130-4.

Nonlipopolysaccharide component(s) of Lactobacillus acidophilus stimulate(s) the production of interleukin-1 alpha and tumor necrosis factor-alpha by murine macrophages.

Rangavajhyala N, Shahani KM, Sridevi G, Srikumaran S.


Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 68583, USA.


Previous studies in our laboratory suggested that Lactobacillus acidophilus strain DDS-1 (LA1) has a suppressive effect on chemically induced tumors in experimental animals. In an effort to understand the possible mechanisms underlying this effect, we investigated the ability of LA1 to induce the production of interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which have potent cytocidal and cytostatic effects on tumor cells. The mouse macrophage cell line RAW264.7 was incubated with live or heat-killed cells of four strains of L. acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidum. Escherichia coli was used as a source of lipopolysaccharide that is known to induce the above cytokines. The amount of the cytokines present in the culture fluid was quantitated by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. LA1 induced the production of higher levels of IL-1 alpha and TNF-alpha than other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Stimulation of the production of the cytokines was not due to the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component, since LPS at concentrations equivalent to, or 100-fold greater than, that of LA1 induced only negligible amounts of IL-1 alpha and TNF-alpha. These results reveal that non-LPS component(s) of LA1 stimulate(s) the production of IL-1 alpha and TNF-alpha by macrophages, indicating that this organism stimulates the production of immunologic factors.


PMID: 9290117 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]



Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(5):351-61. doi: 10.2165/11531420-000000000-00000.

Probiotic supplement reduces atopic dermatitis in preschool children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.

Gerasimov SV, Vasjuta VV, Myhovych OO, Bondarchuk LI.


Department of Pediatrics, Lviv National Medical University, Ukraine.



The role of probiotics in the treatment of atopic dermatitis (AD) remains controversial. A recent systematic review of the available evidence called for further clinical trials with new probiotic formulations.



To assess the clinical efficacy and impact of Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1, Bifidobacterium lactis UABLA-12 with fructo-oligosaccharide on peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets in preschool children with moderate-to-severe AD.



Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, prospective trial of 90 children aged 1-3 years with moderate-to-severe AD who were treated with a mixture of L. acidophilus DDS-1, B. lactis UABLA-12 with fructo-oligosaccharide at a dosage of 5 billion colony-forming units twice daily for 8 weeks versus placebo. The primary outcome measure was the percentage change in Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) value. Other outcome measures were changes in Infant Dermatitis Quality Of Life (IDQOL) and Dermatitis Family Impact (DFI) scores, frequency and amount of topical corticosteroid used, and lymphocyte subsets in peripheral blood measured by laser flow cytometry.



At the final visit, the percentage decrease in SCORAD was 33.7% in the probiotic group compared with 19.4% in the placebo group (p = 0.001). Children receiving probiotic showed a greater decrease in the mean [SD] SCORAD score than did children from the placebo group at week 8 (-14.2 [9.9] vs -7.8 [7.7], respectively; p = 0.001). IDQOL and DFI scores decreased significantly from baseline by 33.0% and 35.2% in the probiotic group and by 19.0% and 23.8% in the placebo group, respectively (p = 0.013, p = 0.010). Use of topical corticosteroids during the 8-week trial period averaged 7.7 g less in probiotic patients (p = 0.006). CD3, CD16, and CD22 lymphocyte subsets remained unchanged, whereas the percentage of CD4, and the percentage and absolute count of CD25 decreased, and the percentage and absolute count of CD8 increased in the probiotic group at week 8 (p < 0.007 vs placebo). There was a significant correlation between CD4 percentage, CD25 percentage, CD25 absolute count, and SCORAD values (r = 0.642, r = 0.746, r = 0.733, respectively; p < 0.05) in the probiotic group at week 8.



The administration of a probiotic mixture containing L. acidophilus DDS-1, B. lactis UABLA-12, and fructo-oligosaccharide was associated with significant clinical improvement in children with AD, with corresponding lymphocyte subset changes in peripheral blood. The efficacy of probiotic therapy in adults with AD requires further investigation.


PMID: 20642296 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Eur J Nutr. 2011 Apr;50(3):203-10. Epub 2010 Aug 28.

Randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled study using new probiotic lactobacilli for strengthening the body immune defence against viral infections.

Berggren A, Lazou Ahrén I, Larsson N, Önning G.


Probi AB, Ideon, Gamma 1, 223 70, Lund, Sweden.



The aim of this study was to investigate whether consumption of Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL 9 (DSM 15312) and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2 (DSM 13434) could affect naturally acquired common cold infections in healthy subjects.



A randomised, parallel, double-blind placebo-controlled study was performed to investigate whether intake of this probiotic mixture could reduce the risk of common cold episodes, number of days with common cold symptoms, frequency and severity of symptoms, and cellular immune response in common cold infections. A total of 272 subjects were supplemented daily with either 10(9) cfu (colony forming units) of probiotics (N = 135) or control (N = 137) for a 12-week period.



The incidence of acquiring one or more common cold episode was reduced from 67% in the control group to 55% in the probiotic group (p < 0.05). Also, the number of days with common cold symptoms were significantly (p < 0.05) reduced from 8.6 days in the control group to 6.2 days, in the probiotic group, during the 12-week period. The total symptom score was reduced during the study period from a mean of 44.4 for the control group to 33.6 for the probiotic group. The reduction in pharyngeal symptoms was significant (p < 0.05). In addition, the proliferation of B lymphocytes was significantly counteracted in the probiotic group (p < 0.05) in comparison with the control group.



In conclusion, intake of the probiotic strains Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL 9 (DSM 15312) and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2 (DSM 13434) reduces the risk of acquiring common cold infections.