TV Doctor on Porridge & Probiotics

Joanna Scott-Lutyens BA (Hons) DipION

Probiotic yoghurt drinks and beneficial bacteria have received quite a bit of press recently. The Daily Mail recently published an article, ahead of an episode of the 'Trust Me I’m a Doctor' series airing this week, comparing the benefits of probiotic yoghurt drinks to porridge.

milk in drinking glass with straw
The Daily Mail discusses the benefits of probiotic yoghurt drinks vs. dietary changes

We are really pleased that the Daily Mail is recognising the importance of good bacteria, and the relevance of the microbiome to our health. As the article reports, the probiotic bacteria has benefits for digestion and immunity, reduces inflammation and helps us absorb vital nutrients from food. It also refers to faecal transplants and the research in the area for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infections. Healthcare practitioners can visit the Professionals site to read more about Clostridium difficile. Probiotic bacteria in pregnancy and childbirth can significantly influence the health of a newborn, as the mother’s bacteria is transferred to the baby. There is also exciting recent research which explores how probiotic bacteria in supplemental form can pass into mother’s breast milk with potential benefits for children’s health.

In the article, Dr Christopher van Tulleken, an infectious diseases doctor, aims to discover more about the claims made by probiotic yoghurt drink manufacturers about their ‘friendly’ bacteria. There is even a reference to the strict European Union Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations, which have recently had an impact on numerous natural health products.

The article talks about the ‘friendly bacteria’ in yoghurt drinks yet fails to mention that probiotics are available in other forms, such as supplements! Probiotic yoghurt drinks can often contain high quantities of sugar, as well as artificial flavourings to help them taste better. We were relieved that Dr Tulleken does acknowledge this, and states, “The fat and sugar found in some preparations can have negative health effects.”

Dr Tulleken then discusses the digestive system in general, and what fibre is and its importance in helping to keep us regular. He mentions fibre’s ability to “clean you out”, as well as the benefits of prebiotics – acting as a food for the good bacteria. He then put the theory to the test by eating oats in the form of porridge for four weeks, after an initial two week period of eating no oats. He carried out a stool sample and sent it to Karen Scott the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen in order for the results to be analysed. The results were interesting….a genetic analysis of the bacteria in the stool sample showed that the bacteria species changed each week, some dying out and some increasing significantly. He concluded from this that the change to his diet, by incorporating more fibre in the form of oats, can have wide ranging benefits to your health.

porridge with fresh fruit
Dr Tulleken ate porridge for 6 weeks with positive benefits for his health

As well as fibre, getting the right type of good bacteria is very relevant. Dr Tulleken discusses the benefits of species of bacteria with no mention of the specific strains, which is really important. Find out more about the difference between species and strains in this article: Probiotics (Live Cultures).

We like porridge too, and think it makes a great breakfast. It is full of gentle soluble fibre to help keep your digestive system healthy and, as the article discovered, contains useful prebiotics. But probiotics, too, are important, so remember to consider your health from a number of nutritional angles.