THE SCI­ENCE BE­HIND THE EX­PER­I­MENT

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We tested 18 prod­ucts, in­clud­ing three dif­fer­ent brands of each ke­fir, yo­gurt, miso, sauer­kraut, kim­chi and kom­bucha. Dr. Chap­man took 1 mil­li­liter of each prod­uct and mixed it for 60 sec­onds with 9 milliliters of phos­phate buf­fer sa­line. This ho­mog­e­nized the mix­ture to en­sure that each sam­ple was rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the to­tal.

The so­lu­tion was then placed in petri dishes with tomato juice agar, a se­lec­tive medium for Lac­to­bacilli species —that’s tech­ni­cal speak for en­sur­ing that only the bac­te­ria we wanted to mea­sure was iso­lated. The plates were then in­cu­bated anaer­o­bi­cally, or with­out oxy­gen, at 95°F for 48 hours. Then the num­ber of colonies on each plate was counted. (Pro­bi­otics are mea­sured in colony form­ing units, or CFU, which you may rec­og­nize from your pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ment.)

We did the ex­per­i­ment twice, took two sam­ples of each prod­uct in each ex­per­i­ment, and av­er­aged the num­bers for all prod­ucts in a cat­e­gory. The caveat: We didn’t get re­sults for all prod­ucts, and we only mea­sured one species, Lac­to­bacilli (we did not ac­count for diver­sity of strains). We also can’t speak to all brands of prod­ucts be­yond what we tested, as some brands may have more or less pro­bi­otics de­pend­ing on their fer­ment­ing process. Hav­ing said that, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Chap­man, this is a pretty good mea­sure of where each of these types of fer­ments stand.

An im­age taken un­der the mi­cro­scope of in­di­vid­ual Lac­to­bacilli or­gan­isms from sauer­kraut at ap­prox­i­mately 1,500 times mag­ni­fi­ca­tion.

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