FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Are Probiotics Ready for Prime Time?

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A Bacterial Superbug

The microbiome is all over the nutrition news with studies pouring in on how just about every aspect of our physiology or pathophysiology is dependent on some degree on the kinds of bacteria that make up our collective species found there. As with any supplement, there are pros and cons.

A lot of these studies are done with animals or small samples in human studies.Even though this research shows promise, there are always precautions when taking any supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA. The following article was updated in 2014 and after checking more recent research, I found the same problems exist – inconsistent results, small sample sizes, study flaws, etc. etc. common in nutrition research.

The most common species of bacteria used in probiotics (among a potential 3,000 or more) are species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.  You’ll want a product that explicitly states a “sell-by” date. Once you have identified the right strain or strains (which at this point seems next to impossible), it’s important to find a product that is labeled correctly in terms of the number of bacteria in each dose. Tests from ConsumerLab.com found that some probiotic supplements did not contain the amount of organisms claimed on the label. The organisms must survive stomach acid and therefore should contain an enteric coating to enhance their survival.

The best advice is to talk to your  doctor before taking probiotics as well as any supplement. People who have an immune deficiency or cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s okay.

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