Does Activia Yogurt Offer Any Health Benefits?

activia.jpgYogurt has long been promoted for its health benefits due to its live bacteria cultures, cited to strengthen your immune system and promote digestive health. Dannon's Activia brand capitalizes on this last bit, pushing Activia as the female-friendly staple to cure tummy woes.

The campaign, however, is vaguely worded on what Activia does, saying simply that it "helps to naturally regulate your slow intestinal transit." Ambiguous much? Slate even wonders if there are any health benefits at all in eating Activia yogurt considering how vague their health claims are.

Any product claiming to treat a disease must have an FDA-approved health claim (yes, constipation is classified as a disease by the FDA), which Activia doesn't have. Instead, the studies on their website conveniently point back to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the gigantic umbrella under which all digestion-related problems fall under, making it even more ambiguous on how eating Activia helps. Add the fact that medical researchers are still debating the effects of probiotics, and you're looking at pretty wobbly legs for Activia's purported health claim (something that Dannon was sued for earlier this year).

On the other hand, yogurt marketing seems increasingly less to do with promoting digestive regularity than getting ready for bikini season (case in point). Jean Kilbourne, author of Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women, told Slate that even though the image of a yellow arrow pointing down a perfectly flat, bronzed belly featured in Activia's commercial refers to "occasional irregularity," she see the image as "a weight loss implication." She continues,

It's meant to evoke the idea, 'This is the kind of tummy you can end up with.' The arrow is code for 'This will go right through you.' It's a dieting subtheme that plays on the whole idea of women being much more focused to do whatever it takes to make our bodies feel thin.

Sigh. Whatever happened to eating yogurt for the sake of...oh, I don't know, enjoying yogurt?

In Videos: 'Target: Women,' Yogurt Edition