Schulich school of Medicine and Dentistry logo Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry

Fighting toxins with the help of yogurt

Jordan Bisanz

Can eating probiotic yogurt help protect against toxins? That’s one of the main questions PhD Candidate Jordan Bisanz has been working on finding the answer to.

Under the supervision of Dr. Gregor Reid, Bisanz was the first author of a recent study that looked at whether or not consuming probiotic yogurt would affect the levels of mercury and arsenic found in school-aged children and pregnant women. He and his co-authors chose to look at these two groups because of the effect of mercury on neurological development in children.

They found that the pregnant women who were provided the probiotic had their mercury and arsenic levels stay the same, but the group that didn’t get the probiotic had an increase.

“The probiotic seemed to stop their levels from increasing, which was the main finding,” Bisanz said.

While the team saw the same trend in the children, their findings weren’t statistically significant. Bisanz said this could just be due to the length of the trial, as the children were only supplied the yogurt for 25 days, not six months like the pregnant women.

Bisanz, who also completed his undergraduate degree in microbiology and immunology at Western University, explained it’s the nature of this research that keeps him fulfilled, as he enjoys working on projects that can be applied to real life.

“The work we’ve been doing is really translational — I don’t know if I could work on something without real world applications and significance,” he said. “My goal is to provide concrete science to back up probiotic use while understanding how they actually work at the molecular level.”

So what can we take away from his research at this point? While it isn’t known if any of the yogurts on the market could work as well as the probiotic yogurt that was used in the study, Bisanz explained he thinks that fermented foods and yogurts should be a part of everyone’s normal, healthy diet.

“There are a lot of positive health effects associated with consumption of fermented foods,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea for anyone to be consuming them — not just for protection against toxic metals, but that’s just one of the many possible health effects.”