The Story of Japanese probiotic drink Yakult

Written by Tasha Merchant on Aug 18, 2022

# Information # Probiotics


At the turn of the 20th century, many people in Japan suffered from infectious diseases like cholera and dysentery caused by poor hygiene and nutrition. A young scholar at the time, Minoru Shirota was horrified by this reality and decided to pursue a career in medicine at Kyoto Imperial University (now Kyoto University) in 1921. Shirota specialized in preventive medicine, as well as researching bacteria and microorganisms that could improve health and reduce the incidence of common illnesses.This was only the beginning of his extensive work on microorganisms.

During his research, he discovered that the right ratio of lactic acid bacteria can provide microbial balance, and control bad bacteria in the gut. In 1930, he was able to successfully extract and culture a fortified strain of lactic acid bacteria robust enough to survive the migration through the human digestive tract. This lactic acid bacteria was able to withstand the extreme acidity of the environment and reach the intestines alive, all while providing immense digestive health benefits in the process. The strain is now known as Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota. 


In 1935, Shirota used Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota to bring a fermented yogurt drink, rich in probiotics, to the Japanese market. He named his new drink Yakult, derived from the Esperanto (the world's most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language) word jahurto, meaning yogurt. Shirota’s had a vision to help improve the health of people all over the world, and believed he could start by improving their gut function with the addition of healthy microbiota. Today, the nutritious and probiotic-rich Yakult is a staple in plenty of lunchboxes in Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and other countries around the world. It has been suggested to provide tremendous health benefits, including  balancing the gut microbiota, improving gastrointestinal dysfunction, preventing infection and cancer, and modulating inflammatory and immune responses 

At intō, we draw inspiration from the work of Dr. Minoru Shirota, and we have developed our probiotic product formulations to incorporate a closely-related strain of Lactobacillus. Similar to Dr. Shirota, we strive to harness the health benefits of the powerful lactic acid bacteria to alleviate inflammation and promote hydration and restore barrier function of the skin.