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The truth about probiotics
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The truth about probiotics

I receive many questions about probiotics. I have thus made a study of the available probiotics on the market and, although you get amazing products, you also get products that contain bacteria/yeasts that are not advisable as nutritional supplements.

According to scientific generally accepted criteria, strains used in probiotic products for human consumption should fulfil the following criteria:
1) they should be of human origin,
2) they should be able to colonise the gut,
3) they should be able to stimulate the immune system, and, above all,
4) they must have a proven safety profile and specifically shouldn't display any virulence or antibiotic resistance.

Letís have a look at some ingredients found in certain products claiming to be probiotics that are NOT advisable to consume:

Lactobacillus Reuteri:
This bacteria can be beneficial but you should check with the manufacturer that it does not contain plasmids that could lead to antibiotic resistance.

Saccharomyces boulardii:
This yeast is much like normal bakerís yeast (which really just makes it an expensive version of bakerís yeast)!
It does NOT qualify as a probiotic because:
-it is not of human origin - it originates from fermenting litchi fruit,
-as far as itís known, it does not colonise the gut, and
-its safety is being questioned in recent scientific literature and Saccharomyces boulardii is being pointed to as the cause of fungal growth in the bloodstream of some patients.

Bacillus Laterosporous:
This spore-forming bacterium originates from soil and does not qualify as a probiotic.
It does not have an established safety profile,
It does however get a bit tricky here because I've learnt not to write everything of at first glance. So let's watch this space when it comes to soil based organisms...

This strain has been named as a cause of nosocomial infections and vancomycin resistance (not a particularly good thing).

Hereís a list of bacteria that do qualify as true probiotics and have all the health benefits that go with them (note that these are widely available in South Africa):

* Lactobacillus acidophilus
* Lactobacillus rhamnosus
* Lactobacillus casei
* Lactobacillus bulgaricus
* Bifidobacterium longum
* Bifidobacterium bifidum
* Bifidobacterium lactis
* Bifidobacterium infantis (use below the age of 1 yr)

Bottom line here is that you cannot go wrong with the bifidobacteria and the lactobacilli.

Therefore, you should carefully read the labels of probiotic products and only use products containing acceptable probiotic bacteria.

Kind regards

Dr Anton

Studies to look at with regards to this topic

FAO/WHO. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food Including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria; 2001 Oct 1-4; Cůrdoba, Argentina.

FAO/WHO. Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food; 2002 Apr 30 Ė May 1; London, Ontario, Canada.

Mitterdorfer G, Mayer HK, Kneifel W, Viernstein H. Clustering of Saccharomyces boulardii strains within the species S. cerevisiae using molecular typing techniques. J Appl Microbiol. 2002;93(4):521-30.

Herbrecht R, Nivoix Y. Saccharomyces cerevisiae Fungemia: An Adverse Effect of Saccharomyces boulardii Probiotic Administration. Clin Infect Dis. 2005 Jun 1;40(11):1635-7. Epub 2005 Apr 25.

Isolauri E, Sutas Y, Kankaanpaa P, Arvilommi H, Salminen S. Probiotics: effects on immunity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2 Suppl):444S-450S.


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