Probiotic yoghurt and supplements are ‘useless’ and may not improve everyone’s gut health

Probiotic yoghurt and supplements have been promoted as having various health benefits in the past.

They’re thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut when it’s been disrupted by an illness or treatment.

But it does advise that while “probiotics may be helpful in some cases, there’s little evidence to support many health claims made about them”.

Now, a new serious of experiments has found probiotics are only effective for some people, and may be a waste of money and time for others.

In the latest research published in the journal Cell, a healthy group of volunteers had their gut colonisation measured.

They were fed probiotic strains and in half the cases the good bacteria went in the mouth and came straight out the other end.

In the other half of cases, they lingered briefly before being crowded out by existing microbes.

Professor Eran Elina, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the study’s senior author, said: “Surprisingly, we saw that many healthy volunteers were actually resistant, in that the probiotics couldn’t colonise their gastrointestinal tracts.

“Instead, they could be tailored to the needs of each individual.”

Professor Eran Segal, a computational biologist, added: “This opens the door to diagnostics that would take us from an empiric universal consumption of probiotics, which appears useless in many cases, to one that is tailored to the individual.”

The NHS advises if you’re considering trying probiotics to be be aware of a few issues.

It states: “Probiotics are generally classed as food rather than medicine, which means they don’t undergo the rigorous testing medicine do.

“Because of the way probiotics are regulated, we can’t always be sure that the product actually contains the bacteria stated on the food label, the product contains enough bacteria to have an effect, or the bacteria are able to survive long enough to reach your gut.

“There are many different types of probiotics that may have different effects not he body, and little is known about which types are best.

“Don’t assume the beneficial effects seen with one type are the same as other similar types or will be repeated if used for another purpose.

“And there’s likely to be a huge difference between the pharmaceutical-grade probiotics that show promise in clinical trials and the yoghurts and supplements sold in shops.”

Although they might not work for everyone, NICE suggests taking probiotics for at least four weeks at a dose recommended by the manufacturer, if you have IBS-associated bloating

According to Amine Ould-Laib, a nutritionist at food allergy and dietary app Spoon Guru, probiotics work by digesting the plant-fibre in our diet, producing short-chain fats which are thought to have protective effects against colon cancer.

“They also work by competing with the bad bacteria in our guts, keeping them under control,” Ould-Laib said.

This is especially important if your diet is poor or you are taking a long-term course of antibiotics, which can lead to bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

“It’s important to give our natural bacteria a boost,” Ould-Laib said.

“By keeping our gut bacteria in check, they help keep us ‘regular’,” he added.

Ould-Lain recommends probiotic products such as dairy drink Yakult, and supplements Alflorex, Symprove and VSL#3, and advises having breakfast before taking probiotics for maximum benefit.


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