New "Functional" Yogurt Proves Promising in Fighting Ulcers and Gastritis

Author:  Yangguang Ou
Institution:  Florida State University
Date:  April 2009

The results from a recent clinical study suggested the promising ability of "functional" yogurts that have been strengthened with antibodies to prevent and treat stomach ulcers and gastritis. The study was conducted by a group of Japanese researchers at Kyoto Women's University and the results were recently presented at the 237th meeting of the American Chemical Society at Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Helicobacter pylori is a stomach ulcer bacterium responsible for causing a majority of stomach ulcers and chronic gastritis. It lives in the acidic environment of the gastrointestinal tract and creates ulcers, or deep "erosions", in the stomach lining that are extremely painful. H. pylori may also cause gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, and has been linked with the promotion of stomach cancers, according to the newscaster TopNews. Complications from ulcers and gastritis can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, damage of the stomach walls that may lead to spillage of stomach and intestinal fluid, and invasion to the adjacent organs due to the spread of the ulcers. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Prevention and Control, more than 25 million people in the United States suffer from ulcers at some point in their lives.

The study involved 42 patients who all tested positive for H. pylori. The patients consumed two cups of yogurt per day; some consumed regular yogurt, while the others ingested "functional" yogurt fortified with the antibody IgY-urease, an immunoglobulin that specifically targets the urease enzyme. Because the bacterium depends on urease to infect the stomach lining, researchers developed this antibody against the protein as a way to prevent bacterial infection. The results from the study have shown that the patients who consumed the "functional" yogurt had lower levels of urea, a byproduct of urease, after one month than their control counterparts. This, according to the authors of the study, provides evidence of decrease bacterial activity in the gastrointestinal tracts. "Our data indicate that the suppression of H. pylori infection in humans could be achieved by taking "functional" yogurt fortified with urease antibody," said Hajime Hatta, a chemist at the Kyoto Women's University, Japan.

Even though researchers agree that conventional antibiotic treatments have proven to be more effective than the "functional" yogurts at controlling the bacterium, they believe that patients would have a preference for ingesting the yogurt than taking medication. As the researchers pointed out, the antibody does not alter the taste of the yogurt and did not cause any side effects. "With this new yogurt, people can now enjoy the taste of yogurt while preventing or eliminating the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers," said Hatta.

The yogurt is currently sold in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Hatta, however, warns that the yogurt may not be for everyone, particularly those who are allergic to milk and eggs.