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States.Yogurt accounts for more than half of all cultured dairy products consumed in the United States (Figure 4-1), with nonfat and low-fat versions being the most popular (about 90% of total yogurt sales). Per capita consumption of buttermilk in the United States has decreased nearly 50% in the past twenty years, but consumption of sour cream (including sour cream-based dips) has doubled and yogurt has tripled during that same time.

Nonetheless, total per capita consumption for all cultured dairy products in 2003 in the United States was less than 6.5 Kg (about 14 pounds), whereas in some European countries, yogurt consumption alone is more than 20 Kg per person per year—the equivalent of ninety 8-ounce cups (Table 4-1). Furthermore, in the Netherlands, France, and other European countries, the dairy sections of food markets and grocery stores contain numerous other traditional as well as new forms of cultured milk and cream products. Many of these new product trends are beginning to catch on in the United States, and now kefir, fluid yogurts, crème fraîche (a 50% fat sour cream), and other new cultured dairy products are readily available in the market place.

Cultured dairy products and probiotic bacteria

Among the factors contributing to the increased consumption of yogurt and related products are the positive nutritional benefits these products are believed to provide. Throughout the world, yogurt, and specifically, the live cultures present in yogurt, have been promoted on the basis of the many health benefits these bacteria are believed to confer. Although the bacteria that comprise the normal yogurt starter culture, Streptococcus thermo-philus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, may indeed enhance gastrointestinal health (to be discussed later), yogurt has become widely used as a vehicle for delivery of other microorganisms not ordinarily found in yogurt that may also improve human health. Such health-promoting bacteria are referred to

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