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    Monday, August 24, 2009

    WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?

    These are the so-called friendly bacteria with health benefits.
    These bacteria, occur naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and miso, and are thought to aid digestion and support the immune system by balancing the intestinal ecosystem.

    But a word of caution. Caveat Emptor!
    A pending class-action lawsuit alleges that Dannon misled consumers about the benefits of Activia and DanActive, both marketed as probiotics. Dannon denies using deceptive advertising and is standing by the claims and the studies that supported them. But a spokesman agreed it's buyer beware at the market. For the consumer, finding the right probiotic can be vexing. Labels can't legally declare that the probiotic can cure, treat or prevent disease. So health claims, which don't require FDA approval, are often vague.

    First the word "probiotic" is misunderstood by consumers.

    1. While there are thousands of bacterial strains, only a few dozen have been tested for health benefits. Studies suggest some products may offer relief for digestive issues, but it's not proven whether healthy people benefit from snacking on live "bugs." Of the hundreds of new products launched in recent years, very few have been shown to be probiotic," Scientists cannot yet explain exactly how probiotics work, but it's thought they can help restore beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. "Some [bacteria] can produce enzymes that help digest food, while others can synthesize vitamin K in the gut or even help stimulate the immune system.
    These bacteria may produce antibodies for certain viruses, produce substances that prevent infection or prevent harmful bacteria from attaching to the gut wall and growing there, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. And if those bacteria are wiped out by disease or medication, potentially harmful microbes may flourish.(See my radio interview listed below for more facts on what happens when “good” bacteria are killed off y well meaning antibiotics)

    2. There is also no standard definition of probiotics, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Scientists generally say the term refers to foods, beverages or supplements containing live microorganisms that studies show promote health when people take enough of them. Without studies, products shouldn't be called probiotic, scientists say. For example, Kashi's Vive is called a "probiotic digestive wellness cereal," one that "may restore your digestive balance."
    And it may -- each serving contains a whopping 12 grams of fiber. But the probiotic used -- Lactobacillus paracasei ssp paracasei F19 -- has not been tested in humans eating Kashi Vive. And there's no guarantee that the microbes in the dry cereal are alive.

    The strongest studies have found that a few probiotics (Lactobacillus GG and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii) can help with common gastrointestinal disorders that may involve an imbalance of gut bacteria."They've been also shown to reduce the incidence of postantibiotic diarrhea -- which occurs in up to 40 percent of children taking antibiotics."

    3. There's also growing evidence that children with ulcerative colitis can benefit from a proprietary mixture of eight strains called "VSL #3. And certain probiotics have been shown to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
    But more research is needed for probiotic effects on almost all other conditions, including cancer, oral health, allergies, skin conditions and obesity.

    4. Bazzoli F et al. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 06/19/09 documented that Probiotic supplementation showed beneficial effect in the prevention and treatment of radiation-induced diarrhea in experimental animal studies. Encouraging results have been observed in humans; however, the few available clinical studies do not allow firm conclusions. More well-performed, randomized placebo-controlled studies are needed.

    Just because a food product says “probiotic” doesn’t mean it’s a probiotic. Even more aggravating, manufacturers often leave important information off the label, such as whether the product contains live organisms or the full name of the bacterial strain.
    Some advice:

    RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE CONSUMER [according to J.Deardorff ]

    Watch the dates: The organisms can die off while the product is sitting on the shelf. The best way to ensure it has an effective number of live bacteria is to look at the “best by” or expiration date.

    Get enough microbes. Easier said than done. There is no single dosage for probiotics; studies have documented health benefits for products ranging from 50 million to more than 1 trillion colony-forming units (the measure of live microbes) per day. The amount you need is the amount that the study on your product showed was effective. There is a clinical study, right--

    Scour yogurt labels. Look for yogurt products with “live and active cultures” and avoid the ones that say “made with active cultures.” Those may have been heat-treated after fermentation, which kills the bacteria. Also, Acidophilus and Bifidobacteria are less sensitive to stomach acid and more likely to make it into the colon alive than other names you might see on the label, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilis.Remember that even “live, active cultures” aren’t necessarily probiotics, meaning they may not have been tested for health benefits.

    Speak the lingo. A probiotic is defined by its genus (e.g. Lactobacillus), species (e.g. rhamnosus) and strain (a series of letters or numbers). “Products that list the genus and species and also the strain tend to have inherently better quality control and products,” said probiotics expert Gary Huffnagle.

    Watch for too-perfect names. Dannon calls its bacterial strains Bifidus Regularis (in Activia) and L. casei Defensis (in DanActive)—for marketing purposes. These are made-up, consumer-friendly, trademarked names.

    Please remember, as with all our articles we provide information, not medical advice.
    For any treatment of your own medical condition you must visit your local doctor, with or without our article[s]. These articles are not to be taken as individual medical advice.


    *Tune in tomorrow for CONCERN WITH LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF BENZODIAZEPINES

    Deepen your understanding of "medical malpractice"... www.MedMalBook.com

    For more health info and links visit the author's web site www.hookman.com

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