A Probiotic Pilgrimage: Visiting Yakult Japan

Parents World Singapore was invited to visit Yakult Japan in May 2017. On the first day, we visited Yakult Central Institute, where we learned about Yakult’s humble beginnings. Japan was not a wealthy nation then, and many children lost their lives to infectious disorders such as food poisoning, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid. Born in 1899 in Nagano, Japan, Dr. Minoru Shirota was a doctor, leading researcher of Microbiology, and pioneer of probiotics at Kyoto University. He became the first in the world to succeed in cultivating a fortified strain of lactic acid bacteria beneficial to human health in 1930. This bacterium was named “Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota” after Dr. Shirota. In 1935, “Yakult” was introduced to the market, and has since been distributed to 38 countries and regions around the world. On the second day, we visited Seinan Elementary School in the morning. Food was cooked and distributed to all classes. A dietician shared with us about the nutritional values for the meals planned in the school, which are accompanied by a bottle of Yakult every lunch. This was followed by a lecture by Kazuyoshi Takeda, Associate Professor of Juntendo University, who shared about how our immune system can be stimulated by L. casei strain Shirota. Immunity is classified as either natural or acquired, and can be modulated by exercise and lifestyle choices. The NK cell is a natural killer cell, and can kill cancer cells in less than four hours. Age, smoking, and drastic lifestyle changes associated with mental stress can cause a reduction in NK cell activity. We can augment NK cell activity to prevent diseases by improving our lifestyle, dietary habits, and exercise. Good dietary habits, like taking supplements of live bacteria also help to foster a healthy life. Next, Takashi Kurakawa, Associate Senior Researcher of Yakult […]

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