Better Breath through Yogurt?

Halitosis, the more sophisticated term for 'bad breath', is embarrassing for the sufferer as well as his environment. The common solution for breath odor is to cover it up with mints--but of course that doesn't really change the condition. Now, a team of researchers from Tsurumi University in Yokohama, Japan, have found a real, all-natural remedy: Yogurt.

Halitosis is caused by anaerobic bacteria that breed on the back of the tongue, generating volatile sulfur compounds including hydrogen sulfide, the stuff that makes your breath stink.

Lead scientist Kenichi Hojo and his crew said they decided to study the effects of yogurt on oral health because of existing research that not only proves its gastrointestinal benefits but also points to the possibility that yogurt might prevent tooth decay. (Of course, the fact that the study has been financed to a large part by a major Japanese yogurt manufacturer might have something to do with it as well.)

During the study, 24 volunteers were being fed 3 ounces of a specially concocted yogurt--sugar free, fermented with living cultures of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus--twice a day for six weeks. After completion of the study, measured hydrogen sulfide levels had decreased in 80% of volunteers who had bad breath... and as a bonus, plaque and gingivitis were reduced, too.

Needless to say, the happy yogurt producer is planning to put its miracle dairy on the market a.s.a.p.

Unfortunately, the study itself, which was presented in March at the annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research in Baltimore, doesn't seem to be publicly available, so we can't take a look for ourselves. We'd sure like to, though, because there are a few discrepancies, slash, unanswered questions that make us wonder.

First of all, is it only this special yogurt with two kinds of bacteria that aids oral health, or any sugar-free yogurt we can buy in the grocery store?

Second, while the study emphasizes that bacteria levels were reduced in 80% of test subjects, it isn't divulged by how much. 89 percent, 35 percent, 2 percent? A (missing) figure that would sure make a difference.

Third, in the initial two-week phase of the study, the test subjects were forbidden to eat yogurt, cheese, pickled vegetables and other foods that might contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococci thermophilus. In the second, six-week phase, they received the sugar-free yogurt.

The jubilant reviews of the mainstream media do not mention, however, whether the volunteers were allowed to eat cheese, pickled vegetables, or other brand yogurts in the second, "yogurt phase"--a possibly significant omission.

Do we think the study is a scam? No. For all we know, yogurt is the best thing for your fresh breath and teeth that money can buy. But as usual, the contained lesson is, don't let anyone else do the thinking for you.

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Posted 06-14-2005 11:24 PM by Doug Casey
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