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Experts say taking a probiotic supplement with many bacterial strains isn't necessarily better. The key is ensuring each strain in a product is active and has been clinically proven to work at a certain dosage, they say. Tests done by ConsumerLab.com have shown that the number of living organisms in probiotics doesn't always reflect the label. Of 12 products tested this year, two delivered fewer organisms than listed.
In the short term, experts recommend sticking with the strains of probiotics that have a lot of science behind them, like Lactobacillus GG, and brands that have proven to be safe and truthful in labeling.
Health benefits of taking probiotics (HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL)
Bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, so the idea of tossing down a few billion a day for your health might seem — literally and figuratively — hard to swallow. But a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria. Northern Europeans consume a lot of these beneficial microorganisms, called probiotics (from pro and biota, meaning “for life”), because of their tradition of eating foods fermented with bacteria, such as yogurt. Probiotic-laced beverages are also big business in Japan.
Probiotics are generally considered safe — they’re already present in a normal digestive system — although there’s a theoretical risk for people with impaired immune function. Be sure the ingredients are clearly marked on the label and familiar to you or your health provider.There’s no way to judge the safety of unidentified mixtures.
In the United States, most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements, which do not undergo the testing and approval process that drugs do. Manufacturers are responsible for making sure they’re safe before they’re marketed and that any claims made on the label are true. But there’s no guarantee that the types of bacteria listed on a label are effective for the condition you’re taking them for. Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, so you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options. As always, let your primary care provider know what you’re doing.
A new study provides the first evidence in humans that probiotics in the diet can modulate brain activity.
In a proof-of-concept study using functional MRI (fMRI), researchers found that women who regularly consumed probiotic-containing yogurt showed altered activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. The study was funded by Danone Research.
"This study is unique because it is the first to show an interaction between a probiotic and the brain in humans," lead author Kirsten Tillisch, MD, associate professor, Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, toldMedscape Medical News.
"We can't say whether the effects are beneficial; that will take larger studies with more complex designs. One of the areas this will move to is study of disease groups like irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety," she added.
The results appear in the June issue of Gastroenterology.