In part 2 of this look at what we currently know about the benefits of probiotic and omega supplementation on chronic, low-grade inflammation, we’ll be looking at the most common and best studied probiotics, alone and in combination.[i]
As I mentioned in Tuesday’s Part I post , Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are very widely studied. They have been shown, for example, to improve the health of the intestinal barrier via a variety of mechanisms including the production of the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA), butyrate, which I have discussed in many prior posts (like here). Low butyrate is associated with intestinal barrier dysfunction, among other health issues.
A quick note: I have included in this summary the exact strains used in the studies listed. I’m not sure how completely relevant they are to efficacy, but for the sake of completeness, you’ll have them in front of you.
Let’s look at Lactobacillus first. This is a review of a few of the clinical studies we currently have:
Lactobacillus and Bifido Combinations: “Combining probiotic strains may produce synergistic effects, conferring additive benefits…” A couple of examples, for your reading pleasure:
We know that fatty acids have a highly beneficial effect on inflammation, and recent research shows that it may take markedly higher levels than previously recognized to make a physiological difference – as high as 2000 mg (or more) per day. On their own, omega 3s potentially can have a positive effect on inflammation-related conditions like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and other diseases of aging. In combination though with probiotics, there may be a highly significant beneficial effect: omega 3s “…can act as prebiotics in the gut…” The mechanism is not yet fully understood, but it seems to increase the levels of LPS-suppressing bacteria (like Bifidobacteria) and decrease LPS-producing gram-negative bacteria (like Enterobacteria). Omega 3s’ interaction with probiotics also seems to promote the growth of bacteria which produce SCFAs, like butyrate, which improve the health of the epithelial barrier, while also promoting the growth of bacteria that are associated with leanness.
A randomized, controlled trial of 60 overweight adults, given a combination of omega 3s and the probiotic, VSL-3, resulted in “…greater improvement in insulin sensitivity than probiotic administration alone.” In fact, evidence is rapidly mounting that shows that “…combining probiotics and omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be a particularly beneficial strategy as they seem to promote health in various areas through synergistic effects.”
To conclude then this marathon discussion of some of the latest research findings: “Hypothetically, combining omega-3 fatty acids with probiotics offers a promising strategy to prevent the development of low-grade inflammation as well as offering non-pharmaceutical treatment modalities, which might be especially relevant in patient groups that suffer from increased systemic inflammation, such as aged and obese individuals. However, this research field is still in need of well-conducted and properly controlled clinical trials to further support this hypothesis.” While of course more research is desperately needed, seems to me that this is one of those “can’t hurt, could help” kind of scenarios!
[i] Hutchinson, A.N.; Tingö, L.; Brummer, R.J. The Potential Effects of Probiotics and ω-3 Fatty Acids on Chronic Low-Grade Inflammation. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2402.