Not all Probiotics Are Created Equal – How Industry is Fooling the Consumer.

· Probiotics

The well anticipated, follow up to STATIC I; STATIC BLOG II is here too unveil the hidden truth of Probiotic products and why some probiotics should not be called probiotics.

To Spore, Or Not To Spore; that is the question. Not many consumers will be aware of this, but probiotics on the market consist of two very different types: 1) Cultured strains containing live organisms, such as L. acidophilus, and 2) probiotic “spores”, such as Bacillus coagulans. Live probiotic strains have shown many positive health benefits, and it seems the number of clinical studies showing beneficial effects are growing faster than the probiotics themselves! Yes, it is a fact that live, refrigerated, probiotic strains sold as supplements do not grow quickly, unlike the more room-temperature-stable spore forming bacteria. Spores grow very rapidly once they reach the GI tract. But is growth rate equal to benefit? Do spore probiotics actually confer intestinal health in the way that live organisms do, or are spores just hope in a bottle?

virun table of probiotics

Well, what actually separates spore from live organisms? Let’s take a look. One of the most popular spores to form a probiotic is Bacillus coagulans. There are innumerable forms of the spore former, and they all have letters and numbers that make it sound like a pharmaceutical drug or the location code for a particular docking station in the Star Trek Enterprise, e.g.: there is the IS2 Spore, GBI-30 Spore former, the M-16V (like the machine gun, go figure) and DR10, AR-1 and DPPIV-I. I wonder who the first company was that started the Star Trek Docking Location number system… To get back to the point, just what is the difference between spore forming hopefulness and live, non-spore forming probiotic organisms?

Well, a HUGE degree of separation exists for effectiveness. Live organisms, which do not proliferate spore formation, have an overwhelmingly more positive effect in clinical studies (emphasis on effect) than spore formers. For example, CHR Hansen claims their live Lactobacillus rhamnosus probiotic strain is the “world’s best documented probiotic strain.” According to CHR Hansen, Lactobacillus rhamnosus; “…has been used in food and dietary supplements since 1990, has been described in more than 760 scientific publications and studied in more than 260 clinical studies.”

Ok, so live strains show better proof of effectiveness. The problem is, not all applications can utilize the live organism and people are not happy with being limited to refrigerated capsules, yogurt or strange looking mucus-like liquid (some of you know what I am talking about here). The consumer doesn’t want to swallow a refrigerated capsule, no, this is not good enough. OK, sorry, but I have to rant: Today’s consumer wants their probiotics to be candy treats, or taste like Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches. I actually like that idea; Philly Cheese Steak Probiotics. Why not? If Domino’s can make it into a pizza, why can’t Virun turn it into a probiotic? I apologize for the digression; it’s almost dinner time.

To appease the consumers’ desire for convenient, treat-oriented alternatives, we now have probiotic chewables, gummies and stick packs. But live-organisms cannot survive the manufacturing process of a gummy or live through ambient-temperature storage conditions, so live strains are not used in these types of applications. In applications where heat and room temperature are as much a part of the product as the hard to pronounce spore former itself, the spore is used instead. But (back to the real question), which is better? …the spore or the live organism?

Not only does research lean heavily upon the live organism (non-spore forming) in showing better effectiveness in clinical studies overall, but the finished product-brands will themselves admit that they would prefer a live organism in their shelf stable application, gummy, stick pack or room temperature capsule, rather than the spore forming alternative. If you dig a little deeper you’ll find that spore forming probiotics are not well understood, and little proof exists to indicate the clinical effectiveness in humans is comparable to the live organism, non-spore forming strains typically used in refrigerated probiotic applications. In fact, although Bacillus coagulans is commonly used to treat such afflictions as diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis, travelers’ diarrhea, diarrhea cause by antibiotics, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, and constipation, according to MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health’s Web sites and the world’s largest medical library; the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to a scale of Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate; and guess where B.coagulans falls on the scale:
The effectiveness ratings for BACILLUS COAGULANS are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Diarrhea. Including viral diarrhea in children, traveler’s diarrhea, and diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
  • Growth of bacteria in the intestine. Early evidence shows that using a specific probiotic product containing Bacillus coagulans and fructo-oligosaccharides twice daily for 15 days per month for 6 months might modestly decrease stomach pain and gas in people with of potentially harmful bacteria in the intestine.
  • Helicobacter pylori infection. Which causes stomach ulcers.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis).
  • As an agent added to vaccines to improve their effectiveness.
  • Cancer prevention.
  • Clostridium difficile colitis.
  • Digestion problems.
  • Immune system strengthening.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Respiratory infections.
  • More evidence is needed to rate Bacillus coagulans for these uses. There has been no reliable research done in people.

Wow. No reliable research done in people…should it even be called a probiotic?

One thing is for sure, probiotics are a new and amazing category for foods and supplements alike. On the growth rate of probiotics, Research and Markets states that “The global human microbiome market is estimated to reach USD 899.1 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 21.1% during the forecast period (2022-2025).” The probiotics category is likely one of the fastest growing supplement ingredient categories, besides Omega EPA DHA. Not only is this market exploding, but the acknowledged health benefits seem to be growing as well. From intestinal health to brain health, probiotics, dubbed as “Psychobiotics,” are being linked to intestinal health dictating neurological behavior. Recent studies are suggesting that poor intestinal health is linked to depression and anxiety. And who knows, maybe there will be new probiotic strains that help grow new hair, or replace caffeine as an energy supplement. I already have some good names picked-out, like Probiotic HA50-Iws and EN49-Iws (HA is for hair and EN energy). How’s that for creative branding?

probiotics bay

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