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Probiotics: Looking Underneath the Yogurt Label

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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.
 
 

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  1. Not only is there significant difference between strains but also in the host organisms (be they human or animal) that can also make it difficult to prove if a potentially probiotic organism is in fact health benefiting. Between the science being very behind in this area and the fear of bacteria/microbes/germs in the general public it can be very difficult working in this area as I do. Just try to explain to your mother that you are trying to incorporate bacteria originally isolated from fecal material into food for human consumption...

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