They’re not as trendy as probiotic drinks but home-made yoghurt or sauerkraut will do a better job at boosting gut health, says a leading doctor.
Medic and broadcaster Dr Michael Mosley makes the claims in his book The Clever Guts Diet.
Yoghurt drinks known as probiotics have become a common sight on supermarket shelves.
The drinks contain friendly bacteria'. They are intended to boost the levels in our guts of beneficial bacteria, which increasingly have been found to play a major role in regulating our weight and immune system and producing hormones and chemicals that can influence our mood.
Dr Mosley, who has presented many BBC science programmes including Trust Me I'm A Doctor, warns that there is a lot of hype' around probiotics.
He says the best way to boost beneficial bacteria is through eating homemade yoghurt, easily made using a litre of full-fat milk, a thermos flask and a teaspoon of plain yoghurt as a starter culture.
He writes: There's a lot of hype around probiotics, with lots of different supplements being advertised on the internet and in health food shops.
Only a few have decent science behind them. I think the best way to top up your levels of "good" bacteria is homemade yoghurt.'
Discussing the claims of popular probiotics, he said: The response of most experts I've spoken to has been scepticism, particularly when it comes to so-called probiotic yoghurts like Yakult or Actimel.
These are yoghurts with "added bacteria". The clever thing the manufacturers did was fund research into the potential health benefits of their products, on the back of which they were heavily promoted around the world.
But when scientists from the European Food Safety Authority looked at some of these claims they were not convinced. On Yakult's or Actimel's UK websites, you will see they mention that their products contain lots of Lactobacillus [a beneficial type of bacteria] but they are careful not to make specific health claims.'
As well as homemade yoghurt, Dr Mosley recommends fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut, popular in central Europe, and kimchi from Korea.
He also extols the benefits of apple cider vinegar. Experiments he has been involved in with Dr James Brown of Aston University show that a spoonful before meals helps control blood sugar levels and blood sugar spikes and leads to a 10 per cent decrease in cholesterol. It has this effect because there are many active molecules from the fruit in apple vinegar that are not found in malt vinegar.
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