Posted on 23/08/2009
Professor Simon Cutting, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, will feature in Channel 4’s documentary series ‘Dispatches’ on 26 October, 8pm. This edition of ‘Dispatches’ reveals how nutritious the UK’s breakfasts really are, while investigating the health claims manufacturers use to sell their products. In the programme Professor Cutting discusses the claims surrounding healthy-sounding probiotic yoghurts.
Probiotics were discovered some 100 years ago by Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff. Elie was intrigued by the discovery of populations of people in remote areas with long life spans – seemingly the result of a diet of fermented milk products, which contained high levels of live bacteria.
Today, probiotics in Britain are sold as food rather than drugs, enabling manufacturers to claim general health benefits without having to conduct rigorous clinical trials.
Professor Cutting argues that the manufacturers’ claims about probiotic yoghurts are misleading and have not been proven scientifically. “If you have a product with a health claim, it should be prescribed by a health practitioner”, he says. “Most of these probiotic products are labeled with the words ‘scientifically proven’, and yet this is not an accurate claim. Any so-called ‘proof’ is only suggestive, fed by industry, and has not been proven scientifically.”
Professor Cutting is not against probiotics per se, but is concerned by the claims accompanying the products: that they will boost the immune system, as proven by scientific experiments. Manufacturers are now targeting their adverts towards parents and children, claiming that probiotics can boost children’s immune system. “They are trying to capture and convince a market, exploiting concerns,” he explains. “The claims are far too strident, and are very inappropriate.”
An expert in the field, Professor Cutting recently appeared on ‘Five’ discussing a recently banned TV advert which asserted that Actimel yogurt supported children’s natural defences against disease. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that claims that it could protect school-age children against illness were not supported by evidence.
In the past few years the priobiotics market has grown significantly, and is becoming increasingly more lucrative with millions of us now buying products containing friendly bacteria. ‘Dispatches’ will explore the debate surrounding probiotics and other popular breakfast foods.
To watch online, visit: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od