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Is Activia Yogurt Healthy? Not As Much As You Think

While Activia may provide health benefits as a probiotic, here's why an RD says it's not quite "healthy."
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard
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Yogurt is widely considered a healthy and nutritious food, and one brand of yogurt in particular claims that it can improve your digestive health. But can Activia yogurt really help relieve gas, bloating, and other digestive discomfort as promised?

According to Activia's website, consuming Activia yogurt twice a day, every day,  for two weeks may help relieve bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, and "rumbling." Dannon, the maker of Activia, says that while all yogurt contains live active cultures, Activia is the only yogurt on the U.S. market that contains Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010/CNCM I-2494. This particular strain of "good" bacteria is considered a probiotic, which is something that helps maintain the health of the normal bacteria living in the gut.

If you struggle with irritable bowel or other gastrointestinal symptoms, could Activia yogurt be the key to a happier digestive system? Find out more about whether this yogurt is actually a healthy choice for you below.

Varieties of Activia yogurt

boxes of activia yogurt
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Activia brand yogurt comes in several different varieties:

  • Probiotic yogurt with fruit
  • Probiotic yogurt with fiber
  • 60-calorie probiotic yogurt
  • Probiotic "Dailies" drinkable yogurt
  • "Activia+" Lowfat yogurt drink

Each of these products contains the Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010/CNCM I-2494 mentioned above. With the exception of the 60-calorie product, all Activia products contain cow's milk and are sweetened with sugar. The 60-calorie probiotic yogurt does not contain added sugar, it contains two alternative sweeteners, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium, instead.

Is there research to show Activia improves gut health?

A research study published in 2021 concluded that supplementation with Bifidobacterium animalis lactis "appeared to exert major beneficial effects" in some irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. The Activia website states that the company has conducted over 18 studies during 20 years of clinical research, but unfortunately, the research is not linked to the website, so it's difficult to quickly evaluate the size and scope of those studies.

Who should try Activia yogurt?

Activia is marketed toward people who frequently have uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, including:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • "Rumbling"
  • General abdominal discomfort

How to try Activia

activia probiotic dailies
JJava Designs / Shutterstock

If you decide to try Activia, note that the manufacturer recommends consuming two containers of yogurt per day for at least two weeks before you decide whether or not your gastrointestinal symptoms are improved. Eating an occasional Activia yogurt every few days or weeks is not enough to deliver the dose of beneficial bacteria and probiotics you need to reduce your abdominal discomfort.

Which Activia product is right for you?

As mentioned before, all Activia products contain cow's milk. If you are allergic to cow's milk or if you choose a vegan diet, Activia is not the right choice for you. You may want to look for a soy-based or other alternative yogurt.

Assuming you tolerate cow's milk, the next decision is really whether or not you want to consume real sugar or an alternative sweetener. Of course, real sugar contributes calories to the yogurt and increases the amount of carbohydrate the product contains. If calories and carbs are not a concern for you, then any of the regular Activia products will likely have the best taste.

If you are watching your weight or if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you may prefer the artificially sweetened 60-calorie version, which will not cause an immediate increase in your blood sugar. But you should also be aware that there is some research that suggests that sucralose and other "non-nutritive" sweeteners can cause increased sugar cravings and weight gain. If you have problems with your blood sugar, another brand of plain yogurt (possibly with added fruit) may be the best choice for you, even if it does not contain Activia's particular strain of probiotic cultures.

Lastly, the Activia product with added fiber may benefit those who struggle with constipation. Note that the source of fiber in this yogurt is inulin. Inulin is a starchy substance found in many plants. Although it can be digested in the gut, it can't be absorbed into the bloodstream. Like any other source of fiber, taking in large amounts of inulin at once may lead to excessive abdominal gas, so it may be best to start off a little slower with this product and work up to eating two containers per day.

When to call a doctor about gastrointestinal pain

If you have severe gut pain that prevents you from standing upright or taking a full breath, especially if it's accompanied by chest pain, call 911 or seek emergency treatment right away.

Abdominal pain that is accompanied by any of these symptoms is not likely to be relieved by a probiotic yogurt or any other over-the-counter remedy. It warrants an appointment with your physician's office:

  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Pain when someone touches your abdomen
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting

The bottom line

Activia yogurt comes in a variety of flavors and products to suit different tastes, but unfortunately it does not come in a plain version without sugar or an added alternative sweetener. If it did, it would have my whole-hearted endorsement as a registered dietitian.

Still, for anyone suffering from gas, bloating, or an otherwise uncomfortable abdomen on a regular basis, there is research to back up Activia's claim that it can provide relief from those symptoms. If you struggle with gastrointestinal pain, choose the Activia product that works best for your overall health goals, and give it the full suggested two week trial before deciding whether or not Activia can improve your health.

Julie Cunningham
Julie Cunningham is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes care and education specialist, and international board-certified lactation consultant. Read more about Julie