3 Myths about probiotics busted

The Bioxyne Team

Brooke Lark

In the 1980s, there was an advertising campaign with the slogan “Oils Ain’t Oils” with Sol and his gangster friends. It was designed to introduce the motorist to ‘man made’ synthetic oils being sold by Castrol. The point of the slogan is that you can’t assume that all oils for your car do the same job.

The same can be said of probiotics.

People often get confused as to which probiotic to buy. There are so many on the market, and they have strange ingredient names like “Lactobacillus acidophilus” or “Bifidobacterium Bifidum”. Often they will have three or more of these names listed, and numbers like “20 billion” or “100 billion” live bacteria.

What does it all mean? How do you choose? Aren’t they all good for you? If so, why not buy the cheapest? Or the one with the most live bacteria? Or the one with multiple different bacteria? After all, more is better, right?

Not correct. Because not all probiotics are probiotics!

At Bioxyne, we would advise you to buy the one that has been clinically tested or trialled at the same dosage as is in the capsules, to give you confidence that the product can provide a health benefit – which is essential for a bacteria to be classified as a probiotic.

To make the best purchase decision, it is useful to understand some facts behind some common probiotic myths:

MYTH 1. All “probiotics” are good for you.

Fact: Not correct. Different members of the same bacterial species work differently (or sometimes not at all), and unless you test it, you don’t know if it will work to improve your health or not.

While it is true that all probiotics are members of specific families such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, not all members of those families deserve the title of probiotics, because they do not all provide a health benefit. Only some specific members do.

Would you say that all humans can paint like Claude Monet, or sing like Elvis Presley? So why do many probiotic manufacturers imply that anystrain of Lactobacillus acidophilus, or Bifidobacteria (for example) are inherently beneficial? It has been scientifically demonstrated that many are not.

We humans are all members of the Homo sapiens species. Elvis and Monet were Homo sapiens too, just like you and me. But their individual talents are different to yours and mine. In the same way, individual members (called strains) of the Lactobacillus acidophilus species are different genetically and also differ in their ability to provide a human health benefit. A review of the label on the bottle should show what individual strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus (or other probiotic species) the product contains. And unless that strain has been tested in a clinical trial, you don’t know if what’s in the bottle is any good.

MYTH 2: The more bacteria (CFUs) the better

Fact: Not correct. There is no scientific evidence for this.

The right number of bacteria (with the number of live bacteria typically referred to as a ‘colony-forming unit’ or CFU) is that number that has been shown in clinical tests or trials of that probiotic strain to provide a health benefit.  Consuming hundreds of billions of an ineffective probiotic is no better than consuming 1 billion of it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how many billions you take. A group of medical doctors in London who studied probiotics confirmed this in 2009[1]:

“The consensus is that there is no standardized number of probiotic bacteria that would ensure an effect. The effective quantity, for a given effect and a given strain, is the quantity which has demonstrated an effect in the relevant human trial.”

Has the company selling the probiotic studied how well it works in a clinical trial? Many have not. And if they have not, you have no way of knowing if it is going to do you any good.

MYTH 3: The more different types of bacteria the better.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence for this.

According to the group of London gastroenterologists who studied probiotics:

“A combination of probiotic strains in a product does not necessarily add to the benefits of each strain. A combination of strains needs to be studied to prove its efficacy.”

This makes sense, because we know that different strains act differently, and sometimes have the opposite effect to each other, so unless you test the combination in a clinical test or trial at the same dosage as in the final product, you cannot be certain that the combination will work any better than just one of the strains.

Progastrim® contains Bioxyne’s patented probiotic strain, Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003. That is quite a mouthful, so we call it PCC®. It has been shown in several clinical studies to boost the immune systems of both adults and infants, and to decrease the incidence and severity of cold symptoms in athletes and infants.

It has also been shown to significantly boost the response to the flu vaccine.

The effective dose is 2 billion live bacteria daily. That’s why we have that number of live bacteria in each capsule – just the right number,and we don’t put any other strains in there because we don’t know if they might interfere with the potent activity of PCC® to provide a real health benefit.

[1] Rowland I, Capurso L, Collins K, Cummings J, Delzenne N, Goulet O, Guarner F, Marteau P, Rémy Meier R. Current level of consensus on probiotic science - Report of an expert meeting-London, 23 November 2009. Gut Microbes 2009; 1:6, 436-439.

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