Today, when you go shopping for groceries, you make sure to buy healthy foods. Your grocery list is probably not the same as it was a few years back. Amidst all the veggies, fruits, and cereals, you do not forget to add your probiotic-rich foods to the list so you do not forget them.
In Western society, probiotic-rich foods are becoming more and more popular. Many companies now have special food ranges that are enriched with live microorganisms.
There is enough evidence to show that these so-called healthy microorganisms provide a big number of benefits. They are especially good for those who suffer from constant digestive issues. Many studies have proven that there is a link between gut health and overall health.
Hence, every other person nowadays gives more significance to their gut by consuming more probiotics. Such foods are actually nothing new.
For example, yogurt is naturally loaded with probiotics. Did you know the use of yogurt in foods dates back to 5000 BC?
In a similar way, in other countries, there were also other foods which were a natural source of probiotics. In Korea, kimchi was widely consumed. Kimchi is the fermented form of vegetables that is a good source of probiotics.
This is why there is now a whole new market for probiotic added food products. However, some researchers have questioned the working of such new items.
An article written that was by Dr. Pieter A. Cohen from the Cambridge Health Alliance at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA in JAMA Internal Medicine takes this into account.
Read the article here.
What Does the Article Say?
Since there is no law that tests products that claim to provide benefits of probiotics, researchers have started to question them. This is the main focus of this article written by Dr. Cohen.
He starts his argument by agreeing and highlighting all the proven benefits of probiotics. He points at the benefits of the microorganism Saccharomyces boulardii. Not only it helps with curing diarrhea in children but also treats the recurring Clostridium difficile infections in older people. But he only talks about the ones that naturally exist in the gut.
According to Dr. Cohen, there is no evidence to back up that adding strains of such microorganisms will provide health benefits or health with any health condition. There is no research that shows that the strains are even safe for such usage.
It is the manufacturers and companies themselves which claim that they are beneficial for psychological or cardiovascular health.
Dr. Cohen states “[d]espite the advertised indications, there are no large, long-term clinical trials proving that probiotics offer clinical benefits for people who are already healthy.”
He further writes “[W]idespread use, particularly among people who are healthy, has greatly outpaced the science”.
A review that was published earlier this year highlighted the same issue. Its conclusion was that the addition of probiotics to products and its effectiveness needs more research.
Read the review here.
Are Probiotics Safe?
Most of the times, most of the organisms evolve to cause complications or infections. The case is same with probiotics. A person consuming probiotic-rich foods may develop infections such as fungemia and bacteremia.
In these infections, the bacteria or the fungi start to enter the stream of blood and cause many health problems. People with weaker immune systems are at the highest risk of having it.
In addition, some problems may even occur because of the quality of the probiotic-enriched problems. Although FDA has set standards, many companies neglect them. Dr. Cohen states that most of the violations are not even trivial and the level of contamination is products is high.
In conclusion, he suggested that the regulations on the products should be tighter. As for the people buying such products, bear in mind that the nutritional information may not be enough to determine whether the product is safe or not. Being extra careful is the only solution.