Sunday 15 December 2019

Scientists say probiotic claims are hard to stomach

As a study suggests probiotic drinks and supplements are likely to have no health benefits, we list the probiotics under scrutiny

scientists at University College London put eight probiotic products through three tests.
scientists at University College London put eight probiotic products through three tests.

Consumers are taking a hard look at their weekly shopping list after a study claimed that probiotic drinks and supplements are likely to have no health benefits.

Their use has grown significantly in recent years, led by brands such as Yakult and Actimel, with six in 10 households now buying probiotics regularly.

The products claim to introduce "good" bacteria to the gut to help with a range of conditions. But scientists at University College London put eight probiotic products through three tests. Just one passed all of them.

They looked at whether products contained as many live bacteria as claimed on their labels, whether the bacteria survived in the stomach and whether they then flourished in the gut.

Four of the eight - Align, Bio Balance, Bio-Kult and Probio7 - failed all of the tests. Yakult, a yogurt drink, contained the amount of bacteria claimed, but failed the other two stages, and its rival Actimel fell short on the number of bacteria surviving in the stomach. The only product to pass all tests was Symprove.

Past studies suggested probiotics could help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as coughs and colds in children and high blood pressure. The probiotic market is estimated to be worth €25bn globally.

Dr Rob Hicks, from UTV's 'This Morning' programme, said the results of the study should help shoppers make better decisions. "Some people take them as a form of health insurance and some take them for chronic disorders such as IBS and are often not particularly satisfied with conventional medicine," he said.

A Yakult spokesman said: "Over 100 human studies with the Yakult strain or product have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals."

A Bio-Kult spokesman said: "Every batch of Bio-Kult produced is tested at an independent lab."

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