Fact CheckHealth

Are bacteria found in yoghurt the same as one in vagina?

Claim: The bacteria in yoghurt is the same as the one in the vagina.

Verdict: FALSE. Although the bacteria found in yoghurt and the vagina may have some similarities, they are different.

Full Text

Yoghurt, the creamy and tangy dairy delight, has been a staple in cuisines worldwide for centuries. Whether it’s enjoyed on its own, as a savoury dip, or as a refreshing topping for your favourite fruits and granola, yoghurt is a versatile and nutritious food that has something for everyone.

Yoghurt is made by fermenting milk with live cultures of bacteria packed with probiotics that promote healthy digestion and boost the immune system. It’s also a great source of protein, calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals. 

People often wonder about two common types of bacteria found in yoghurt and those in the vagina. While both types of bacteria are important, are they the same?

Recently on Twitter, in a post, temmie (@me_lanin_pie) asserted that the bacteria found in the vagina is the same in Yoghurt. The tweet reads, “The bacteria found in yoghurt is the same bacteria found in the vagina”.

As of the time of filing this report, the tweet had a combination of retweets, likes, comments and views of over 742,000 engagements.

DUBAWA thought it important to verify this because of the conflicting views about the bacteria found in yoghurt and the vagina, its virality and the sensitive nature of the issue concerning public health.

Verification

According to an Oxford University Press on National Library publication, the word “yoghourt” is believed to have come from the Turkish word “yoğurmak,” which means to thicken, coagulate, or curdle. During references to the health-promoting properties of yoghurt date back to 6000 BC in Indian Ayurvedic scripts, it was not until the 20th century that Stamen Grigorov, a Bulgarian medical student, attributed the benefits to lactic acid bacteria. 

Bacteria play an essential role in our bodies, and we encounter different types of bacteria in various parts of our bodies. Medical News Today defines bacteria as microscopic, single-celled organisms that exist in their millions, in every environment, both inside and outside other organisms. Some bacteria are harmful, but most serve a useful purpose. They support many forms of life, both plant and animal and are used in industrial and medicinal processes.

Yoghurt is a fermented milk product made by adding specific strains of bacteria to milk. It is made when heated milk is combined with bacteria and left to sit at a warm temperature for several hours. 

According to Simon Pedersen, a Food Scientist at Arla Foods, “When we add bacteria to milk products, we refer to them as cultures and use those with a good reputation. They are called lactic acid bacteria or lactic acid cultures.”

These bacteria convert the lactose in milk into lactic acid, which causes the milk to thicken and develop its characteristic tangy taste. The two most common species of lactic acid bacteria used in yoghurt production are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilous.

On the other hand, the vagina contains a complex microbiome of different types of bacteria. The most dominant type of bacteria in a healthy vagina is the Lactobacillus species. These bacteria help maintain the vaginal pH, preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria that can lead to infections. The specific species of Lactobacillus present in the vagina include Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus jensenii, Lactobacillus iners, and Lactobacillus gasseri, among others.

In 2015, Cecilia Westbrook, an MD/PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, made yoghurt using her vaginal bacteria. Rosanne Hertzberger, a Dutch microbiologist who studies vaginal bacteria at Washington University School of Medicine in the US, told ScienceAlert this was apparently not a good idea because our vaginas contain many of bad, as well as good, bacteria. 

The dominant bacteria in the vagina is Lactobacillus, similar to the bacteria used to make yoghurt. However, not all Lactobacillus strains can create yoghurt, and the yoghurt we buy at supermarkets is made from a combination of different bacterial strains. 

Ms Hertzberger replicated an experiment to make yoghurt using different Lactobacillus strains, but only one was remotely successful, producing sour milk with precipitated milk protein. 

Gregor Reid, a professor of microbiology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, also disagrees with the experiment by Ms Westbrook. According to Mr Reid, it is improbable that the experiment conducted by the woman resulted in any health benefits. 

He said, “if she was eating it to get the benefits of the lactobacillus, she already has plenty in her vagina, so that makes no sense.”

The bacteria used in yoghurt production are selected for their ability to ferment milk and create a specific taste and texture. According to a publication on Science Direct, the bacteria in the vagina are naturally occurring and play a vital role in maintaining the vaginal environment.

One of the most significant differences between the bacteria in yoghurt and the vagina is their location. Yoghurt bacteria are primarily found in the digestive system, whereas vaginal bacteria are found in the reproductive system. Additionally, yoghurt bacteria are not a natural body part, whereas vaginal bacteria are.

Another important difference is the role they play in the body. While yoghurt bacteria can help promote digestive health, vaginal bacteria are essential for reproductive health.

A health expert, Omale Ogbe, in an interview with DUBAWA, stated that the bacterias are not the same based on the taxonomy

“They may be of the same genus, but they are not the same specie as can be seen here for bacteria found in the vagina (Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus iners, Lactobacillus. jensenii, and Lactobacillus gasser) and here for yoghurt bacteria (Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus),” Mr Ogbe explained.

Conclusion

While the bacteria found in yoghurt and the vagina may have some similarities, they are not the same. Yoghurt bacteria are selected for their ability to ferment milk and create a specific taste and texture, while vaginal bacteria are naturally occurring and play a vital role in maintaining reproductive health.

”The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with BONews to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.”

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