The Probiotic Hype: Is There Any Truth To It?

Millions of people in the US regularly consume probiotics. The probiotic industry is a multibillion-dollar business. Almost every month there is a new type of probiotic manufactured in the form of yogurt or other dairy product, and consumers are eager to buy them. There is a mythological belief among consumers that probiotics are the key to good health. All over cyberspace, there are hundreds of probiotic sites which hype up the miraculous properties of these foods. But the question is: is this hype real and are probiotics really that effective?

Recently, a new study investigated probiotics and concluded that these foods do not offer any significant health benefits. In fact, in some people, probiotic products may have negative consequences.

You can find probiotic products everywhere these days. Probiotics are available in most grocery stores in the form of pickles, ice cream, dairy foods, yogurt, pickles, and even cheese. The manufacturers who make these probiotics claim that the living organisms that are present in probiotics protect the gastrointestinal tract from bad bacteria. If one consumes probiotics every day, one can expect to have regular bowel movements, no digestion problems, no arthritis, and so on. The probiotics have always been advertised as very safe, and people of all ages regularly consume them. Many people would rather buy probiotics rather than fill a prescription from a doctor.

The hype about probiotics has been created by marketing companies that promote these products even though there is no solid clinical evidence to back these claims and no major randomized controlled trials that have looked at their effectiveness.

This latest research reveals that probiotics may not be the magic panacea for good health, after all. The researchers from the Weizmann Institute and the Tel Aviv Medical Center in Israel designed the most comprehensive study of probiotics to date, and their findings are published in the journal Cell.

The researchers wanted to know if the probiotic bought in the food stores could colonize the gastrointestinal tract and whether these probiotics had any impact on health. Unlike previous studies which only looked at the stool samples to analyze the bacteria, the researchers in the present study performed two slightly invasive studies- colonoscopy and endoscopy in 25 participants and measured the bacteria directly from the gut lining. They then split the participants into two groups; one group was given generic probiotics, and the other group was given a placebo. Then they assessed the gut bacteria again.

At the end of 2 months, they observed that some of the participants simply expelled the probiotics, whereas the other group welcomed the new microbes.

Based on this study, the conclusion was that probiotic-living organisms were only welcomed in the gut of a few people and not in everyone. Why some people could recolonize the gut bacteria from probiotics is not yet known. But no major benefits of probiotics were observed in this study.