Probiotic Cheese Introduced in Italy

In one of the hottest trends in dairy right now, companies in Europe and the U.S. are moving to create innovative products that contain added probiotic cultures, microorganisms thought to confer health benefits when ingested in adequate amounts. In January 2006, Dannon introduced Activia, a yogurt supplemented with live Bifidus Regularis bacteria, to the American market. And with each passing month it seems more and more companies are hopping on the probiotic bandwagon; Italian cheesemaker Bidino recently announced a new line of cheeses containing probiotic cultures.

The human body houses a complex ecosystem of so-called friendly bacteria, also called microflora, which are thought to aid the body's digestive and immune systems. The theory, for which there is supporting scientific research, is that problems can arise when these microflora are out of balance, and that the balance can be restored by ingesting good bacteria in foods and dietary supplements.

Bidino's probiotic cheese contains the same active culture as Activia, although their documentation calls it by an alternate name, Bifidobacterium lactis, or BB-12. BB-12 is made by industrial food supply giant Chr. Hansen, and according to the press release, "BB-12 is said to be the most widely researched probiotic bacteria and is already available in numerous other dairy products around the world."

Certainly this is a trend to watch as we are likely to see more products like this offered in the U.S. in the coming years. Will it be a passing fad, or do live cultures in food really improve the health of those eating them? Does anyone out there have any stories to report from personal experience? Anyone's digestive ailments cured by eating Activia?