Probiotics industry welcomes Bill Gates’ support of probiotics, microbiome research

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotics, Malnutrition, Bill Gates

Recent comments by Bill Gates supporting probiotics and ways to modulate the microbiome to help tackle malnutrition are hugely significant, says the executive director of the International Probiotics Association (IPA).

Writing in The Telegraph​ in the UK, ​Gates stated: “We’re still in the relatively early stages of research into the microbiome. Over the next 10 to 20 years, we’re going to learn more about each individual microbial species and how they work with the food you eat to impact health. That knowledge will allow us to smartly engineer interventions that “correct” the microbiome when it’s out of whack.

“You’re probably familiar with one of these interventions: probiotics. In the future, we’ll be able to create next-generation probiotic pills that contain ideal combinations of bacteria – even ones that are tailored to your specific gut.”

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West, George Paraskevakos, executive director of the International Probiotics Association, said “from all of the negative buzz [around probiotics], it’s good to see an important – a key opinion leader – that recognizes the benefits of probiotics. Bill Gates: Who hasn’t heard of Bill Gates?

“And the work that they [The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] are doing, they’ve tied in probiotics with malnutrition, because that’s what they’re focused on. He’s found through his research and what he’s reading that probiotics are the fertilizer of the microbiome. It’s targeted therapies that would help uptake of nutrients and vitamins in food.”

Combating criticism in the media

Despite the great headline from Gates, probiotics continue to attract negative articles in the mainstream media which question both their safety and efficacy.

The IPA created a committee called the Education and Communication Committee in 2018 to tackle such issues.

“Consumer outreach is a little expensive, so the next best thing is to go to the healthcare professionals, they will be our ambassadors to reach consumers,” ​said Paraskevakos. “So, they needed to be properly educated so they can understand the health benefits and what probiotics can bring for wellness. The idea was to identify, engage, and educate.

Paraskevakos also noted that growth for probiotic dietary supplements in the US has “pulled back” and the compound annual growth is forecast to stay stable, but consumer survey data indicated that probiotic users have increased.

From 2017 to 2019, the number of probiotic users in the US went from 33 million to 53 million. “That’s an increase of 60% in probiotic users,”​ he said.   

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