ISAPP launches education videos to counter common myths around probiotics

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / ClaudioVentrella
© Getty Images / ClaudioVentrella

Related tags: Probiotics, Probiotic

What is a probiotic? What are the health benefits of probiotics? Are all probiotics the same? And how to choose a probiotic product are the topics of a new video initiative from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics to help counter myths around the beneficial microorganisms.

“ISAPP has been working to address misinformation on probiotics and prebiotics through publication of several ISAPP infographics​,” ​Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, ISAPP’s executive science officer, told NutraIngredients-USA. “Myths are being spread by people with a misunderstanding of what probiotics and prebiotics are, or people with an agenda to promote things without the science to support their claims.”

The list of myths is “pretty long”​, said Dr Sanders, but the main ones are:

Myth #1: Probiotics have no benefit for healthy people.
This myth was perpetuated by a recent article in Scientific American​. People spreading this myth may concede that there are benefits of probiotics for things like preventing NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) or ulcerative colitis, but these are medical disorders. There are data to support a role in healthy people, said Dr Sanders, including reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections or GI infections, and reducing or preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The last one may not sound like an effect in healthy people, she said, but there are over 250 million antibiotic prescriptions issued per year in the United States by community pharmacies, so many healthy people are taking antibiotics for minor issues.

Myth #2: The higher the dose or the greater number of strains the better.
That’s not necessarily the case, said Dr Sanders. Some of the best evidence for probiotics is for  single or limited numbers of strains. And these studies do not typically use mega-doses. One notable exception is research on VSL#3, she said, which uses both multiple strains and high doses.

Myth #3: The sugar present in probiotic yogurts negates the benefits.
Sweetened yogurts should be consumed as part of a healthy diet, and there is nothing inherent in the sugar that would negate the benefits of the probiotics. In fact, many RCTs have been done with yogurt containing sugar.

Myth #4: Dried probiotics are no longer alive.
People confuse being inert with being dead. Dried probiotics are readily revived once they enter your body and able to grow and metabolize.

Myth #5: If probiotics don’t colonize and endure in the gut then they don’t work.
This is two-pronged myth, said Dr Sanders. Firstly, the myth states that even if you take probiotics at a dose of several billion, that dose is so small compared to what’s already in there that there will be no effect. The second part of the myth is that if probiotics don’t colonize then there is no health benefit. Both of these are incorrect, said Dr Sanders, with RCTs clearly showing they have an effect.

Industry support

ISAPP started working on these videos in April, and this first batch was underwritten by Pfizer, P&G, and Yakult, she said. “The funding comes from industry and the content from ISAPP academics,”​ she noted.

The four videos are:

  1. What is a probiotic?  (published September 29)
  2. Health benefits of probiotics (published October 6)
  3. Are all probiotics the same? (published October 16)
  4. How to choose a probiotic product (to be published on October 23)

Success will be based on measures such as the number of views and the number of back links from other sites, said Dr Sanders.

The videos, which can be viewed HERE​, focus on probiotics, and ISAPP hopes to expand this to other videos covering prebiotics, synbiotics, and other topics. 

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