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Question: I am wondering about feeding yogurt to children for probiotic benefits. Are the probiotic qualities of yogurt valuable or is all dairy just too harmful? Is there a certain age or situation when yogurt would be appropriate for probiotic benefits?

Answer: Yogurt is not the best way to get our probiotic needs met, because it is usually made with jelly and sugar. The body automatically grows favorable bacteria when we eat vegetables and beans, which means that consuming probiotics are not necessary for healthy children and adults who are consuming adequate amounts of vegetables and other natural plant foods. However, probiotics are useful in certain situations, for example if you have taken antibiotics, or have an autoimmune condition or digestive disorder. Even then, I don't see why yogurt should be the delivery system for probiotics. Americans are eating much too much dairy products, and the heightened IGF-1 hormone that results from consuming dairy may be an important contributor to chronic disease and cancer. So, I tend to discourage dairy consumption and would not want the presence of probiotics to make people think that highly sweetened yogurts are healthy foods. When probiotics are necessary, a supplement is more appropriate.

Read more about animal protein and IGF-1, a hormone linked to increased cancer risk:
Animal Protein, IGF-1 and Colon Cancer
Do Protein Powders Fuel Muscle Growth Healthfully?
Dr. Fuhrman’s Position Paper on IGF-1

To see Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations for supplements, including probiotics, please visit the Vitamin Advisor.

This question and answer is a sample of what you will find in Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center Ask the Doctor Forum. Access to this forum requires membership. All Members can search the entire archive of questions and answers. In addition, Platinum and higher members have access to ask Dr. Fuhrman and his Medical Associates their own questions.

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