When the label tells you the food you are buying “contains probiotics,” are you getting health benefits or just marketing hype? Perhaps a bit of both.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms that work by restoring the balance of intestinal bacteria and raising resistance to harmful germs. Taken in sufficient amounts, they can promote digestive health and help shorten the duration of colds. But while there are thousands of different probiotics, only a handful have been proved effective in clinical trials. Which strain of bacteria a given product includes is often difficult to figure out.
There is no standard labeling requirement to help buyers make sense of probiotic products. The word “probiotic” on the label is not enough information to tell whether a given product will be effective for a particular health concern. Just as a doctor would prescribe different antibiotics for strep throat or tuberculosis, different probiotic species and strains confer different health benefits.