Last week we told you about the draconian European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), whoâ€™s been rejecting almost all the health claims submitted for probiotic products out of
hand…despite mounting studies confirming their numerous
The most recent probiotic rejection by the EFSA involved a gut health
research dossier submitted by the company Valio, a probiotic
manufacturer. Their dossier was based on the Lactobacillus
rhamnosus GG (LGG) probiotic strain and it included 600
published studies, 38 doctoral dissertations, and about 50
Despite all the evidence, the EFSA maintained that the
numerous studies failed to demonstrate the health benefits
of this particular probiotic strain! They also said that
Valio cannot make any immune protection claims for their
probiotic, since some of the studies were conducted on
people suffering from diarrhoea and not on healthy people!
Making up your own mind
To date, the EFSA has refused almost 90 per cent of all the
health claims submitted for natural remedies and
supplements…despite the fact that the majority of the
rejected claims were all backed by sound scientific
studies… Left to the EFSA, our health and wellbeing is
certainly not in good hands… so itâ€™s time to make up our
Itâ€™s true that a vast amount of probiotic supplements have
flooded the market in recent years. All of these boast new,
exciting ingredients and bacterial strains to help improve
your gut health and strengthen your immunity.
The key to making sure that you are taking the best possible
probiotic is to find out whether its claimed benefits are
backed by ample research.
Below is a guide, taken from the writings of Dr Georges
Mouton (an internationally renowned gastroenterologist), to
help you sort the premium probiotics from the mediocre ones.
The following tips can help you find a good probiotic
1. Different probiotic strains: Probiotics have different
genus, species and strains with a diverse range of
properties and benefits for the person taking them. The
best probiotic supplements acknowledge this and apply
specific strains to target specific health conditions.
For example, the Saccharomyces boulardii strain will help
with diarrhoea and the Lactobacilli strains can help
those taking antibiotics. When it comes to probiotics,
there is no â€˜one-size-fits-allâ€™, because we all have
varying needs and a different bacterial make-up in our
2. Itâ€™s all in the research: Itâ€™s important that the
probiotic you choose lists the individual probiotic
â€˜strainâ€™ names, because the health benefits of probiotics
are species- and strain-specific. For instance:
Lactobacillus = genus
acidophilus = species
NCFMÂ® = strain
When you have the actual probiotic strain name (and not just
the genus and species), you should be able to Google it and
see a list of clinical trials which have successfully proven
the benefits of that specific strain.
3. Quality control: As well as being scientifically tested
for specific health conditions, probiotic strains should
all pass the following criteria to help guarantee their
* Ability to survive at room temperature (even
refrigerated probiotics need to be stable whilst
away from the fridge)
* Ability to resist gastric acidity & biliary salts
(so that they survive their journey to your gut,
where they get to work)
* Ability to stick to the intestinal wall (it is only
then that probiotics can multiply in the gut)
* Ability to inhibit pathogens once in the intestines
In-vitro testing (testing for safety in humans) should be
carried out on probiotics to make sure they can pass these
essential criteria. Again, these tests are carried out on
probiotic strains themselves, and not just the genus and
4. Strength in numbers: A good, strong probiotic should have
at least 1 billion microorganisms per daily dose…
anything less would have a limited effect. To put things
in perspective, the human body is home to over 100
trillion bacteria. So, even children need billions of
good bacteria in supplements to reap their benefits. But
thereâ€™s no point in taking a probiotic with a high number of ‘friendly’ bacteria if it is of poor quality.
5. Time of manufacture guarantee: Probiotics are of a
delicate nature. Whether they are kept in the fridge or
on the shelf probiotics will lose viability. This means
that â€˜billions count at the time of manufactureâ€™ will
decrease with time. Therefore high quality probiotics
should be made with plenty more billions than what is
stated on the pack. Always opt for a billions count which
is viable until the time of expiry.
6. Too much of a good thing: In general, it is good to take
a number of different probiotic strains. However, a high
quality multi-strain probiotic will contain 5 or 6
different probiotic strains, and not 20. Too many
probiotic strains have been shown to â€˜cannibaliseâ€™ each
other within the capsule. Make sure your probiotic
supplement has been tested to ensure that the different
strains used can survive together in harmony!
7. The importance of prebiotics: Prebiotics like
Fructooligosaccharides have been shown to stimulate the
growth of probiotics in the body. Therefore, it may be a
good idea to consider a synbiotic supplement with both
probiotics and prebiotics in one supplement. The effects
of synbiotics can be longer lasting, giving you more
8. Beware of additives: This might be stating the obvious,
but make sure there are no added sugars, colourings or
flavourings in your probiotic (especially in those aimed
at children) to make them more appealing.
9. Value for money: Look out for manufacturing packaging
tricks, like â€˜billions per gramâ€™ as opposed to ‘per
capsule’. A typical probiotic capsule is roughly 250mg so
listing billions per gram can mislead people into
thinking it is a much higher dose than it actually is in
reality. Other tricks to look out for include small pack
sizes and high daily dosages. A simple way to compare the
value of probiotics is by dividing the retail price by
the course length, and again by the billions count per
capsule. When it comes to probiotics, you usually get
what you pay for.
Digestive Health: Related Reading:
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