- February 28, 2023
- by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
- 0 Comments
Yakult Benefits: Everything You Need to Know
Yakult is a probiotic drink that’s become quite popular—but is it good for you? Yes! There are actually many Yakult benefits for your health.
Probiotic beverages are becoming an increasingly popular choice in the United States. One brand in particular is rising in popularity.
This drink, known as Yakult, is a probiotic beverage originally created in Japan. The benefits of Yakult range from increasing beneficial gut bacteria to easing gastrointestinal symptoms.
Read more about the unique yakult health benefits of this probiotic drink and why you may want to add it to your diet.
What is Yakult?
Yakult is a probiotic drink originally created in Japan in 1935. A microbiologist by the name of Dr. Shirota created the beverage using a strain of probiotics called Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Shirota, or L.paracasei Shirota for short.
This strain of probiotics is unique to Yakult and has been extensively studied to determine its benefits to human health.
Yakult is available in two varieties: Yakult and Yakult Light. The nutrition facts for each are listed below.
Yakult: 1 bottle (2.7 fl oz)
- 50 calories
- 0 g fat
- 0 g sat fat
- 12 g carb
- 0 g fiber
- 1 0g sugar
- 9 g added sugar
- 1 g protein
Yakult Light: 1 bottle (2.7 fl oz)
- 25 calories
- 0 g fat
- 0 g sat fat
- 6 g carb
- 2 g fiber
- 3 g sugar
- 1 g added sugar
- 1 g protein
The primary difference between the two varieties of Yakult is the amount of added sugar. Yakult Light is lower in added sugar and contains stevia for sweetness, whereas Yakult is higher in added sugar.
Yakult Light contains 2 grams of fiber, thanks to the addition of corn dextrin. Both varieties have the same amount of total fat, saturated fat, and protein.
Both types of Yakult are dairy based, however the beverage differs from other dairy-based probiotic sources like yogurt.
One of the primary differences between Yakult and yogurt is the consistency. Yakult is intended to be consumed as a drink, which is why it’s thinner than yogurt.
However, you can use yogurt and Yakult in similar ways in the diet, such as by adding it to a smoothie for a probiotic boost.
Keep in mind that Yakult must be refrigerated until you’re ready to consume it and therefore may not be as convenient when taken on the go.
In the United States, Yakult can be found in major retailers including Target and Wal-Mart. The Yakult website also has a convenient store locator where you can enter your zip code and find a store close to you that sells the probiotic beverage.
The reason most people drink Yakult is for the probiotics, which could have numerous benefits in the body. Yakult contains L.paracasei Shirota, a type of probiotic strain unique to Yakult.
The L.paracasei probiotic strain is part of the Lactobacillus casei group, which consists of three closely related species of probiotics—Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Studies on the L.paracasei Shirota probiotic strain have shown it to offer a myriad of health benefits. Like other probiotics, the benefits of L.paracasei Shirota are likely specific to the strain.
Since there are many strains of probiotics out there, it’s important to remember that not all study results can be extrapolated to other types of probiotics.
Additionally, the strain found in Yakult is specific to the beverage, meaning it won’t be found in another source. So Yakult health benefits really are unique.
Increases beneficial bacteria in the gut
Research presented on the Yakult website shows that drinking Yakult results in measurable increases in beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
This increase may provide multiple positive effects, including helping to prevent constipation while also modifying the presence of other bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, such as E.coli.
Additionally, the increase shows that the strain of probiotics can survive in the GI tract, a fact not unique to the L.paracasei Shirota strain alone.
Research shows that Lactobacillus strains of probiotics are resistant to stomach acid. This is an important part of the Yakult health benefits associated with drinking this type of probiotic beverage.
May help with constipation and diarrhea
How probiotics affect the gastrointestinal tract depends on the strain that you take in.
Research in this area is continuing to evolve, but studies show promise in how probiotics can positively benefit people with gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation and diarrhea.
One study of the L.paracasei Shirota strain found that study participants with constipation who consumed about 3.4 fl oz of a L.paracasei Shirota beverage for nine weeks had decreased constipation symptoms.
The Yakult drink benefits included less rectal tearing and bleeding after a bowel movement as well.
The study subjects also noticed a decrease in other symptoms like hard or small bowel movements, feelings of incomplete bowel movements, and straining to complete a bowel movement.
Interestingly, this study also looked at symptoms of depression among participants and found that both the placebo group and the intervention group taking the probiotic beverage had improvements in depressive symptoms.
This truly shows that there may be a strong connection between gut and mental health. Yay for Yakult drink benefits!
Another study looked specifically at L.paracasei Shirota’s effect on antibiotic-associated diarrhea and found that people taking the probiotic experienced improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms.
However, the small study was conducted in hospitalized patients with spinal cord injuries, making it difficult to apply the results to the general population.
Gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation and diarrhea may be the result of many factors including irritable bowel syndrome, stress, diet, hydration status, illness, and/or medications.
Understanding the cause of GI symptoms is essential to finding effective treatment. While probiotics may offer a benefit, they should be considered in conjunction with other approaches.
May reduce symptoms of stress
Another area of interest for Yakult is the effect that probiotics may have on stress.
A variety of studies have investigated the link between L.paracasei Shirota probiotic intake and effects on stress-induced gastrointestinal dysfunction, stress-induced sleep disorders, and other physical symptoms of stress.
In a small study, 47 people were split into two groups: an intervention group that drank a L.paracasei Shirota probiotic beverage (3.5 ounces for two months) and a placebo group that drank a similar beverage without the probiotics.
The study authors found that people in the intervention group had marked improvements in stress markers leading up to an academic exam.
The researchers measured stress markers using a scale to measure both feelings of stress and abdominal dysfunction related to stress. Additionally, they measured cortisol, the stress hormone, in the saliva of the participants.
Overall, the group drinking the probiotic beverage had reduced gastrointestinal symptoms and lower cortisol levels.
Other studies have found similar results with improved stress markers in people drinking Yakult.
One study found that drinking the L.paracasei Shirota probiotic beverage improved markers of sleep quality in fourth-year medical students preparing for a national exam.
Both studies were conducted in small groups of students preparing for an exam. Because of this, it’s impossible to generalize the results to a broader population such as people experiencing chronic stress.
Still, folks with acute bouts of stress, such as is the case when preparing for an exam, may see a benefit to drinking Yakult.
May help with symptoms of depression or anxiety
When it comes to depression and anxiety, there may also be a benefit to drinking the Yakult probiotic drink.
A small study of 18 people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder found that drinking the L.paracasei Shirota probiotic beverage helped decrease depressive symptoms and improve sleep quality.
Importantly, the study participants continued with normal medication regimens during the treatment—presumably that included medications for depression and/or sleep.
Despite the positive results, the study should be taken with caution as it followed a small group and was conducted without a placebo or control group.
Additionally, study participants continued with normal medication regimens and other aspects of their diets were not measured. Because of this, the results cannot be attributed to the probiotic beverage alone.
The Lactobacillus casei Shirota probiotic strain may also aid in reducing anxiety in athletes, as found in a small study of 30 badminton players.
During a six-week period, the players received the probiotic drink. Compared to the placebo group, this group noticed improvements in both anxiety and aerobic capacity.
Like the other studies mentioned, the group of participants was small and results need to be repeated in larger studies to prove this effect.
Overall, the causes of depression and anxiety are complex and treatment should be managed by a medical professional.
A multi-pronged approach that includes medication, therapy, and diet may be effective for some people to manage their condition. Resources on this topic can be found here and here.
May support immune health
Finally, probiotics may provide beneficial effects to immune health.
The gastrointestinal tract makes up a significant portion of the immune system and maintaining a healthy bowel with an optimal balance of bacteria is important for a healthy immune system.
Besides ensuring the diet is balanced and includes plenty of prebiotics such as those found in plant-based foods, it may also be helpful to include probiotics in the diet as a means for boosting good bacteria in the GI tract.
This is supported by research, with some studies specifically looking at the effect of the probiotic strain found in Yakult on measurements of the immune system.
In endurance athletes, one study found a decrease in the number of upper-respiratory tract infections among people taking a probiotic versus a placebo group.
Endurance athletes with high-volume training may be more susceptible to upper-respiratory tract infections than the general population, so these results should be interpreted with caution.
Similarly, a small study conducted in adults ranging in age from 55 to 74 found that the group drinking 4.5 ounces of Yakult daily had improved immune markers, including an increase in a specific type of immune cell known as natural killer cells or NK cells.
The immune system may be impaired with age, and interventions that improve its function are promising among the elderly population.
Are there any Yakult side effects?
Taking probiotics may come with some side effects, especially when you first add them to your diet.
Most often, gastrointestinal symptoms are the primary side effects experienced. These include gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. However, many reports show that these symptoms resolve after a few days of taking probiotics.
Other more serious side effects may occur when probiotics are taken by people who are immunocompromised. In this case, it’s imperative to speak with a medical professional before adding probiotics to the diet.
It’s also important to consider the other ingredients in the probiotic that you add to your diet.
In the case of Yakult, added sugar is a significant source of calories in the original version of the beverage. Limiting total added sugar in the diet is connected with positive health benefits and should be considered when drinking Yakult.
The company recommends drinking one to two Yakult beverages daily, which quickly adds up to 18 grams of added sugar in Yakult alone.
If you want to cut back on total added sugar in the probiotic beverage, it’s best to choose Yakult Light, which is sweetened with Stevia and contains 1 gram of added sugar.
Other considerations before you decide to Yakult to your diet include total calories and the limited amount of protein in each drink.
Yakult is also a dairy-based beverage, making it inappropriate for vegans or anyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance.
Additionally, if you have a lactose intolerance, it’s best to avoid Yakult and opt for a probiotic from a non-dairy source such as fermented sauerkraut.
The bottom line: Should you drink Yakult?
Yakult is a popular probiotic drink with many potential health benefits, including ones for the immune system and digestive health.
This research-backed beverage is readily available in national chains, making it a convenient choice for adding probiotics to the diet.
However, you may want to consider choosing Yakult Light over the original Yakult to limit total added sugar. But both formulations can fit into a healthy, balanced diet if total added sugar is taken into consideration.
- Yakult website
- Target website
- Walmart website
- Yakult store locator
- A 2018 study in Frontiers
- Yakult website
- A 2005 study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology
- A 2021 study in Nutrients
- A 2014 study in British Journal of Nutrition
- A 2016 study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology
- A 2017 study in Beneficial Microbes
- A 2021 study in Microorganisms
- A 2021 study in Nutrients
- CDC website
- NIH website
- A 2011 study in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
- A 2013 study in European Journal of Nutrition
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