[PHOTO - activia_yogurt, M. Spencer Green, AP Photo)]

MANILA, JANUARY 6, 2011 (MSN LIFESTYLE) ENLIGHTENED EATER - By Rosie Schwartz - It's not just about regularity!

New research suggests probiotics can ward off food poisoning and allergies, improve pregnancy outcomes, and even help you lose weight

New research is revealing a wealth of health benefits from probiotic yogurts and other products

We are constantly waging war against bacteria. We battle them with all we've got - a slew of weapons such as antibiotics and anti-bacterial soaps and cleaning agents. But there's another arsenal scientists are exploring that appears to stave off a range of infections along with a variety of different ailments: and believe it or not, they're using other bacteria. Probiotics - the introduction of healthy bacteria into your body's gastrointestinal tract - is currently a hotbed of research.

Probiotics' health perks are many, and span the lifecycle. Immune system functioning, the development of allergies and bowel disorders, diabetes, obesity and bone health are just a few areas scientists are investigating. (And for those of you who missed my 11 Foods For 2011, several probiotic foods are up there on the list.)

The whole matter is about the balance of bacteria in your gut, where your body's first of defence against infection is located. In fact, 80 per cent of your entire immune system is found in the stomach. When harmful bacteria predominate over beneficial types, illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even constipation may result. But introducing various strains of bacteria may tip that balance towards good health.

Scientists have found that certain strains stimulate various cells in the immune system to fight off a wide range of infections including some of those responsible for food poisoning. Others may counter the effects of stress on the gastrointestinal tract. Research is also showing that certain bacteria in the gut may even play a role in promoting weight gain as they produce hormones that direct the body to store fat. Changing the balance of bacteria may, in these cases, make even waist management an easier task.

While there is a growing list of benefits for adults including better absorption of some nutrients such as calcium, scientists are now finding that these boons also extend to children. The latest study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at pregnant women and found that probiotics may even improve pregnancy outcomes including decreasing the risk for premature delivery as well as improving the health of premature infants.

But before you rush out and purchase the first probiotic products you see, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

Firstly, probiotic products are not regulated which means that while bacteria may be added to foods or be available in supplement form, it doesn't mean that they work. Strictly speaking a probiotic must contain a specific strain of bacteria in a quantity that results in a health benefit. In addition, studies on human subjects should have been carried out to test the product.

And this is where the lack of regulation can make selecting a probiotic a tough issue for consumers. Just because a food or supplement company calls their product a probiotic doesn't make it one. In some instances, various bacterial strains are simply added to products with no testing done at all. The bacteria may not even survive human digestion or the quantity of bacteria may be too low to provide any perks. In some products, the type of bacteria contained may not even be identified on the label.

If you aren't sure about the quality of a probiotic, check with the company to see if they have conducted any research. In addition, take heed of the Best Before date on package labelling to ensure bacteria counts - live cultures can disappear along with the product's freshness.

Prebiotics is another exciting area of research. These are specific carbohydrates which are resistant to human digestion and both stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut on their own, as well as allow those already present to thrive. Think of them as bacteria's fare of choice. Fructo-oligosaccharides, gums, inulin and resistant starches are some examples of these indigestible carbs.

Many healthy foods naturally contain prebiotics. Oligosaccharides are present in breast milk, making them one of the first foods in a baby's life which can help their immune system get on the right track.

Allium family members - garlic, onions and leeks- fruits and vegetables like bananas, berries, dark green vegetables, like chicory and spinach, along with artichokes and asparagus are examples of prebiotic choices as are whole grains like barley, oatmeal and whole wheat and legumes or dried peas and beans.

* Bing: More great sources of prebiotics

Some good news for chocolate lovers: a British study on prebiotic action, just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that cocoa with a high flavonol content acts as a prebiotic too. Plain cocoa, which is fat-free, is a low-calorie way to take in the flavonols. But if you do choose chocolate itself, limit quantities and go for those labelled as having 70 per cent or more cocoa.

Food companies are also adding indigestible carbs like inulin to an expanding list of products including breads, pastas and milk. They're also making pro- and prebiotic combos such yogurt and berries.

One of the best times to consider both pro- and prebiotics is following the use of antibiotics. These medications tend to wipe out both the harmful and beneficial bacteria at the same time, so repopulating your gut with friendly types is a wise action indeed.

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian in private practice and is author of The Enlightened Eater's Whole Foods Guide: Harvest the Power of Phyto Foods (Viking Canada). You can find her on Twitter @rosieschwartz. Webpage is at: <>

FOR WOMEN AND ALSO FOR MEN, WHY NOT? YOUR AGING SKIN By Karyn Repinski, Prevention Overnight Sensations

Your skin does most of its repair work in the dark. Choose the right night soother to heal winter dryness—and get extra anti-aging benefits

Overnight Sensations

You know that saying "You snooze, you lose"? Well, nothing is further from the truth when it comes to skin care. In fact, nighttime is the right time to repair aging skin and keep it ultramoisturized. "During the day, skin is in protection mode—it's busy fending off environmental aggressors like sun, wind, and pollution," says Jeannette Graf, MD, a dermatologist in Great Neck, NY. At night, while you rest, your skin has time to replenish. "This is when it does the bulk of its repair work," such as creating new cells and mending or shedding old, damaged ones, says Dr. Graf.

Your skin makes the most of any creams you apply at night too: Because it gets warmer then, products penetrate more deeply, yielding faster results, explains David Bank, MD, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY. This is a huge plus in the winter, when skin loses more than 25% of its ability to hold in moisture. That drop means a slowdown in skin turnover that leaves your complexion looking dull. For 40-plus women, who often already have dry skin, that can really ratchet up the problem—especially if you're also using ingredients that can irritate skin, like retinoids to control acne and aging. But don't give up on having a soft, smooth, fresh-faced glow. Our guide to choosing the right night cream goes beyond restoring lost moisture; these pm perfecters also contain potent anti-agers that rejuvenate skin. Just pinpoint your main complexion concern and preferred texture—balm, cream, lotion, gel, or serum—and prepare to get the skin of your dreams.

How to shop like a dermatologist.

You Want: INTENSIVE CARE FOR DRY SKIN If your skin is tight, rough, and flaky, it's time to sub a mega moisturizer for your regular nighttime product. Key ingredients for dehydrated skin include fatty acids, such as linolenic or linoleic acid, and ceramides to repair skin's natural moisture barrier; hyaluronic acid and glycerin to attract water to the skin; and petrolatum, mineral oil, and dimethicone to seal it in. Stick with balms or creams; most lotions aren't hydrating enough for dry skin. And remember, regular use is a must. "Moisturizers can control dry skin, not cure it," points out Mary Lupo, MD, a dermatologist in New Orleans.

BALMS AWAY Collective Wellbeing Night Balm ( contains echinacea to stimulate production of skin-smoothing collagen, plus lavender to help lull you into dreamland. La Roche-Posay Substiane Daily Replenishing Care for Mature Skin ( features Pro-Xylane, a sugar molecule that firms and hydrates skin.

CREAMS OF THE CROP The rosehip oil in Skinceuticals Emollience ( is a gentle, natural source of anti-aging retinoic acid. Boots No7 Lifting & Firming Night Cream (Target) contains peptides to smooth skin and prevent sagging.

SUPER SERUMS Unlike heavier creams and balms, serums can be used during the day, under your SPF and foundation. For an instant surge of moisture, try Vichy Laboratoires Aqualia Thermal Serum 24Hr Hydrating Concentrate ( and Philosophy When Hope Is Not Enough Replenishing Oil (

Editor's Picks: The best beauty products of 2010.

You Want: LESS SENSITIVE SKIN If you suffer from rosacea, a condition that makes your skin prone to flushing and blushing, or your skin just normally stings and burns when you apply products, you need a night cream that coddles your complexion. Fragrance aggravates sensitivity, so look for fragrance-free products, which means no scent has been added. Don't be surprised, however, if a fragrance-free product has an aroma—they often 1 contain natural soothers such as lavender oil and rose oil. Also essential: ingredients proven to ease irritation. Some MVPs include coffeeberry, green tea, and vitamin C, antioxidants that help lessen lines and fade brown patches.

BALMS AWAY Ultraemollient Eau Thermale Avene Tolerance Extreme Cream ( has an airtight cap that eliminates the need for preservatives, another potential skin aggravator. Vichy Laboratoires Aqualia Thermal Mineral Balm ( contains water rich in selenium, a mineral proven to reduce inflammation.

CREAMS OF THE CROP Aveeno Positively Ageless Night Cream with Active Naturals Natural Shiitake Complex (drugstores) features mushroom extracts that slough dead cells to enhance luminosity. Boscia Restorative Night Moisture Cream ( is loaded with botanical extracts—willow herb, rose, and mulberry—to quell inflammation and brighten skin.

LOTIONS YOU'LL LOVE CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM (drugstores) is packed with niacinamide, a B vitamin that reduces redness and minimizes dark spots. Dr. Lupo also recommends using coffeeberry, found in Priori CoffeeBerry Night Complex ( for buying info), during the day under SPF to squelch UV-induced free radicals.

SUPER SERUMS Those with vitamin C—like Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum ( and Paula's Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum (—ramp up collagen production and tone down discoloration.

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You Want: A MOISTURIZER THAT DOESN'T MAKE YOU BREAK OUT It's easy to think you don't need a rich night cream when you're battling blemishes. But after age 40, everyone needs extra hydration in the winter—especially if you're also using drying acne treatments. Your mission: Choose a product that quenches skin without causing pimples. It's not enough to opt for noncomedogenic products, which means they won't block pores, says Dr. Bank. "Scan the ingredients carefully for oil in any form—even some natural oils like safflower oil can trigger breakouts." Hydrators to look for include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and dimethicone; even alpha hydroxy acids such as lactic and glycolic acids, which exfoliate dead cells to clear pores, are mildly moisturizing. Skip heavy balms, which usually contain oil. A new category of moisturizer is ideal if you're blemish-prone: hydragels, which have a lightweight gel base.

CREAMS OF THE CROP Kate Somerville Oil Free Moisturizer ( contains an algae extract that firms skin while you sleep. Pur Minerals Moisture Infusion ( minimizes the inflammation of P. acnes bacteria with green tea.

LOTIONS YOU'LL LOVE Dr. Brandt Blemishes No More Oil-Free Hydrator ( contains peptides to firm, hydroxycinnamic acid to even tone, and salicylic acid to clear pores and make you look glowy. If you're acne-prone and sensitive, DDF Ultra Lite Oil Free Moisturizing Dew ( provides relief with calming ingredients like aloe and allantoin.

SWELL GELS To minimize pores, Avon Anew Rejuvenate Night Sapphire Emulsion ( taps the power of peptides and salicylic acid. The vitamin E in Garnier Nutritioniste Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream (drugstores) soothes and protects against free radicals.

SUPER SERUMS When skin is parched from acne meds, Epicuren Moisture Surge Hyaluronic Acid Gel ( for stores) and Peter Thomas Roth VIZ-1000 ( flood it with hyaluronic acid— which acts like a magnet to bind water to skin.

More skin care tips dermatologists swear by.

You Want: AN ANTI-AGING BOOST If your night cream is marvelous at moisturizing but isn't up to the job of fading brown splotches and reducing lines and wrinkles, you don't need to switch creams. Instead, pat on an anti-aging serum prior to moisturizing. "Topping a serum with a cream or lotion actually seals in its active ingredients—and reduces the chance they'll rub off on your pillow," says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a dermatologist in Cambridge, MA. Keep in mind that winter isn't the season to start using a retinoid, which can be an especially drying anti-ager. Better ingredients to look for: peptides, which boost collagen production to plump skin; lactic acid and glycolic acid to speed cell renewal and rev radiance; and brighteners like licorice and vitamin C to fade brown spots.

SUPER SERUMS MD Formulations Continuous Renewal Serum ( gently polishes skin with glycolic acid. Got sensitive skin? Olay Regenerist Fragrance-Free Regenerating Serum (drugstores), with niacinamide and peptides, is ideal. To stop early signs of aging, Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle & UV Damage Corrector ( calls on peptides, antioxidants, and repair enzymes.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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