Scientists Weigh in on the Recent Anti-Probiotic Hype

Remember back in September, I was ranting about two “anti-probiotic” studies and the insane conclusions people were drawing based upon them? Well, a few days ago, I came across an article[i] on this very topic, on the Gut Microbiota for Health website, that is worth taking a few minutes to write about. (This site was created by the Gut Microbiota and Health Section of the European Society for Neurogastroenterology & Motility, a scientific organization, and is devoted to posting the latest microbiome science.)

It turns out, it wasn’t just me who was beyond annoyed.  In this case, the pissed off  people are scientists who study the microbiome and who are fed up with the recent fake news “anti probiotics” campaign the media has been waging:  “A few weeks ago, one piece of news hit the headlines and caused quite a commotion. Stating that probiotics were little more than ‘useless’ and could even have negative effects on health, this information was based on a couple of pieces of research published in the scientific journal Cell.”

A few examples:

Dr. Lorenzo Morelli, director of the Science and Food Technology Department at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy), states, ““We have a large number of pathogenic bacteria in the gut, and when there is an imbalance between these and our good bacteria, health problems emerge. Probiotics can help avoid this imbalance and, consequently, limit the consumption of antibiotics.”

Dr. Patrice Cani, a researcher at the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (who studies a subject near and dear to us Biome Buzzers – the role of the Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria in obesity, diabetes and heart disease), points out that not all probiotics are the same, or will have the same effect in people.  “Even if the bacteria are only passing through the intestine, they can produce active compounds or induce the immune system to produce other, specific antimicrobial factors ‘simply’ through contact with the mucus.”

Dr. Cani also points out that “…not all bacteria have a positive effect on human health, and neither are all probiotics the same and useful for everything. In other words, the properties of one cannot be attributed to others.”

Gut Microbiota For Health was much tamer than feisty me in its critique of the media hype, but the message was the same:  do not write off probiotics’ well-documented health benefits based upon two tiny studies.  “Over more than a decade, clinical trials involving thousands of patients have demonstrated that probiotics are beneficial to health.”



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