Yakult and Everything There is to Know About it

Yakult – The Drink

About the Drink

Yakult is probably one of the most widely recognized health drink in the world. With its unique name and packaging, only a few will fail to notice it in the cold beverage section of any supermarket. Yakult is known to promote good nutrition that leads to a healthier digestive system. It is consisted of skimmed milk and lives Lactobacillus casei Shirota strain – a good bacteria that helps in keeping the digestive system healthy.

As the company envisions, a healthy digestive system will lead to not only good health but longevity as well. A lot of people, however, are confused about what kind of drink Yakult truly is. What makes it different from the typical milk drink is the fact that this drink is made of fermented milk – actively processed with a dosage of probiotic bacteria making it a member of the probiotic food group. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, not all bacteria are bad for the body. There are certain kinds of live bacteria and yeast that work towards the better functioning of the bodily systems, particularly digestion. These kinds of bacteria are naturally occurring in the body but can be supplemented via consumption of probiotic-rich food.

The process of making Yakult is similar to creating yogurt and the primary difference between them is their consistency. To put it simply, Yakult is almost the same as yogurt except that it is in liquid form. Yakult’s consistency makes it comparable to drinkable yogurt.

Yakult is pretty much the primary product of the Yakult company and was a brainchild of Japanese scientist Minoru Shirota. It has been in production since the early 1930s when the scientist started manufacturing and selling the product as a ‘yogurt-like beverage’ – a unique product at the time. It did not immediately hit it off with the consumers and took almost three decades before it was exported outside of Japan.

RottenKitten [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Nutritional Value: The L. casei Shirota strain

The Lactobacillus casei is a species of the Lactobacillus bacterium which is often found naturally in the human digestive system. It is a kind of homofermentative bacteria which produces lactic acid from sugar. Yakult serves as a supplementary source of this bacterium strain where the right dosage will help in the betterment of the digestive system.

Based on some studies, the presence of these probiotics helps in the balance of both good and bad bacteria in the body. It helps in the replenishment of the “helpful” bacteria that the body needs. On top of that, these bacteria fight off or limit the entry of harmful pathogens (or “bad” bacteria) in the body. Lactobacillus casei is just one species of a variety of probiotic strains.

Yakult Health Benefits

There are many claims to the health benefits of Yakult to its consumer. Just like any probiotic food, it is sure to aid in keeping the digestive system working. With this, it is known to aid in the movement of food by improving digestion. It can also help in relieving constipation because it keeps a healthy collection of the microbiome in the intestines. 

It also provides a balance of pathogens in the body particularly the stomach and the intestines, keeping the ratio between the good and bad bacteria in check. It can also help in diminishing disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella enteritis, and E. coli. But it does not have any therapeutic claims in curing illnesses caused by these bacteria.

Yakult Dosage: Why is the Yakult Bottle so small?

It is common to see 65-mL and 100-mL bottles of the Yakult drink, but rarely any larger than that. They are served in packs of 5 pieces to promote consumers to drink “a Yakult every day, so everyday is OK”. It is normally encouraged to drink only one bottle of Yakult in a day as it already contains a significant amount of good bacteria enough to keep the digestive system in check. On the other hand, there is no harm in drinking more than one bottle in a day in considering the number of bacteria present as there are no studies yet involving side effects on an overload of L. casei in the body. Regardless, it is always a good idea to drink Yakult in moderation.

Dezzawong [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

For such a unique drink as Yakult, many people are wondering why it is manufactured in such a small size if the dosage of bacteria is not a major concern. There are even blog posts and social media forums that discuss a variety of reasons for the Yakult drink’s size. For those who are curious, there are a number of reasons why it is manufactured and distributed in this small size.

The main factor to consider is hygiene and contamination. Since larger bottles have higher capacity, there is a likely chance that it will not be immediately finished. Consumers can leave it open allowing bacteria and germs to enter the bottle and risk an unwanted infection. Other than that, keeping the bottle open for a long period of time may diminish the quality of the drink. Air-borne bacteria can kill off live microorganism in the bottle creating an undesirable result.

The hidden dangers to health

What many people need to understand is the fact that even though Yakult can promote good health, it does not have any therapeutic claims. This means that it will not, in any way, cure any disease and illnesses. It cannot be used as an alternative to medication thus, doctors’ advise must always be prioritized. Consequently, this also that the drink cannot be used exclusively for treating infections and other stomach or intestinal issues.

Yes, in certain cases Yakult can help ease some symptoms of digestion-related diseases. For instance, the right dosage and frequency of probiotics can kill off pathogens and diminish symptoms of an upset stomach (or in some cases, diarrhea or other food-related stomach and intestinal issues). However, it will be inadequate for serious and severe digestion issues which include intestinal infections, heartburn, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and more.

What is most surprising is that in some standards around the globe, Yakult is categorized under the “limit consumption” category and is basically deemed unhealthy despite its visions towards good health. On top of that, there are a number of studies that actually discourage health conscious individuals from consuming Yakult. In fact, the UK Food Standards Agency has indicated that Yakult contains more sugar per serving than the majority of Coca-cola products.

Focusing on the ingredients, it is observable that it contains L. casei Shirota strain bacteria, powdered skim milk, water, sugar, and artificial flavoring.  It contains 14g of sugar for every 100g serving compared to Coca-Cola products which contain 10g sugar for every 100g serving. Many people claim that it has high sugar content because the breakdown of sugar keeps the active bacteria alive. Also, many people claim that the health benefits of Yakult outweigh the nutritional imbalance of the health drink. This is why a moderation of Yakult consumption is recommendable for those who still wish to reap the benefits of this probiotic drink.

Yakult  - The Company

About Yakult Honsha Co. Ltd.

The Yakult Honsha Co. Ltd is the company responsible for both production and distribution of Yakult products all over the world. It used to be a Food and Beverage company who has patented the production of a special probiotic drink similar to yogurt. Today, it has ventured towards manufacturing cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and many others.

This company was officially established in the mid-1950s even though Yakult has been in manufacturing two decades prior. During this time, it was established not just as a manufacturing company but also a research institute based in Kyoto, Japan. Currently, its headquarters is located in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan. It has a total net worth of about 31 Million Yen and is one of the most popular manufacturing companies in the country with multiple plants all over the globe.

The Yakult Trademark and other products

Yakult Honsha is probably the first company in the world to produce a drinkable kind of probiotic milk drink which is why they were able to register the Yakult drink as a trademark in the late 1930s. They were able to register a trademark because it is the first fermented milk drink that uses the Lactobacillus casei Shirota Strain – a strain of the L. casei bacteria which is used exclusively by Yakult.

Since then, they have developed and manufactured a variety of probiotic drinks after Yakult. This includes Joie from the 1970s and Mil-Mil fermented milk in 1978 which uses bifidobacteria instead of the L. casei Shirota strain. They have also entered the cosmetic industry in the early 1970s and re-emerged in the industry in the 1990s through the Parabio series of skincare products. Since then they have been producing many skincare products which are manufactured not only in Japan but in other countries as well.

However, they are also quite well-known for their contributions to the pharmaceutical industry. Since they established their research institute in Kyoto in the late 1950s, they have been developing multiple products related to health. In the 1970s, they have introduced the Yakult Seichoyaku which is an over the counter intestinal regulator. This was their first major breakthrough in the pharmaceutical industry.

In the early 1990s, they have developed the Campto, which is a cancer chemotherapy drug for which they have received multiple awards for decades after its introduction to the market. They have furthered their research on the cancer drug industry that in 2005 they have launched a new chemotherapy drug known as Elplat.

Yakult and the World

It took a total of twenty years before an official company was established to massively manufacture Yakult in Japan, an impressive feat for a single product. But the vision of Shirota can be felt in every bottle of his work and soon, all of his hard work had paid off. The first overseas operations of Yakult Honsha was established in Taiwan in the early 1960s, more than five years after the company was established and more than three decades after the production of the first set of Yakult products was ever sold. It took another five years before the product was sold outside of Asia.

Nowadays, there are production plants in Asia which include Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and more. There is also production plants in the Middle East including UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. There is also a wide production in Europe including Italy, Germany, UK, France, Spain, and many more. It is also produced in Brazil and Uruguay for South America. It is also manufactured in both Canada and the US.

The Idea behind the Yakult Lady

This concept was introduced in the 1950s as a means of introducing the product to a wider market in Japan. Yakult ladies are women who are tasked to promote good health and go door-to-door selling and delivering Yakult products all over Japan. There was even a program in Japan where these Yakult ladies are tasked to visit the elderly to ensure that they drink their dose of Yakult on a regular basis.

Judgefloro [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Yakult – The Team

The Yakult Swallows and Yakult Swallows Roster

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows is a professional baseball team owned by Yakult Honsha Co Ltd. It is a member of the Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League. It was previously owned by Japanese National Railways and was formerly known as the Kokutetsu Swallows. The 2018 roster includes famous baseball players like Nori Aoki, Tetsuo Yamada, and David Buchanan.

ぽこ太郎 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The Yakult Swallows stadium

Also known as the Meiji Jingu Stadium, this is the baseball stadium in Shinjuku which serves as the home field of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. It was established in 1926 and can hold up to 37,000 individuals. Its popularity stems from the fact that famous baseball player, Babe Ruth, played in this field in 1934. It was also the main stage of the 1964 Olympic Games baseball exhibitions.

The Yakult Swallows Hat or Cap

The official Yakult Swallows hat has a YS emblazoned in the center, similar to the NY Yankee caps available in the states. It is considered as an official Pro Sports Team Apparel which also includes shirts, gear, sweatshirts, and other memorabilia.

Yakult Swallows Score History

This particular team has been established for 68 years and is known for its impressive record. In this length, the team has won five series championships and seven central league pennants. It is considered as one of the teams to beat in Japan’s national baseball. It held the top central league position in 2011. The current roster includes Nori Aoki which was previously drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.

ROG [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons