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Study: Special Yogurt Fights Stomach Ulcer Bug

A "functional" yogurt helps fight the ulcer bug Helicobacter pylori, according to results of the first human clinical studies with the yogurt reported Sunday at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, is responsible for the majority of stomach ulcers and many cases of chronic gastritis. It also promotes stomach cancer. Antibiotics and acid suppressants are commonly used to rid the stomach of H. pylori, although scientists are looking for more economical and convenient ways of getting rid of the bacteria.

Because H. pylori depends on a protein called urease to infect the stomach lining, scientists created an antibody to urease called IgY-urease and showed that eating yogurt containing the antibody suppresses H. pylori activity in the stomach.

"Our data indicate that the suppression of H. pylori infection in humans could be achieved by taking functional yogurt fortified with urease antibody," Dr. Hajime Hatta, of the department of food and nutrition at Kyoto Women's University, Japan, told chemists gathered at the meeting.

In the study, Hatta and colleagues had 42 people who tested positive for H. pylori consume two cups daily of either plain yogurt or yogurt containing the urease antibody for 4 weeks.

They found that levels of a by-product of urease in exhaled breath called urea decreased significantly in the people eating the yogurt containing the antibody when compared to those eating the plain yogurt.

This is a clear sign of reduced H. pylori activity in the gut, Hatta said. The "urea breath test" is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the detection of Helicobacter pylori.

The anti-H. pylori yogurt did not have any apparent side effects in study volunteers, but it's not for everyone, Hatta cautioned, such as people who are allergic to milk or eggs.

Pharma Food International Company, Ltd. a Japanese firm that does research and development on the functional food ingredients, including the anti-H. pylori yogurt, provided partial funding for the study. The anti-H. pylori yogurt is on store shelves in Japan, where it is sold as "Dr. Prio," and in Korea, where it is sold as "Gut."