Less than half of respondents understand the microbiome: Verb Biotics survey

By Claudia Adrien

- Last updated on GMT

Survey respondents couldn't identify the correct definition for the microbiome. @Getty Images
Survey respondents couldn't identify the correct definition for the microbiome. @Getty Images

Related tags microbiome Gut health Prebiotics Probiotic

A survey of 2,157 people by microbiome start-up Verb Biotics shows that only 39% of respondents understand what the gut microbiome is. Additionally, 69% of the survey’s participants said they experienced gut health symptoms but only one in 10 gut health sufferers used probiotics.

Despite a lack of knowledge about the microbiome, six out of 10 people believe it is important. However, only two out of 10 people could recognize the correct definition for it.

To counter this information void, Todd Beckman, CEO of Verb Biotics​, said the microbiome industry should rethink the discussion surrounding bacteria.   

“Framing up the probiotic discussion over the years has been difficult because people have a hard time wrapping their heads around what's good bacteria, and what’s bad bacteria. And why do they need it?” Beckman said. “As we think about shifting the discussion from probiotic and bacteria to microbiome health, now we're talking about maybe something broader that people can get their heads around.”  

By “broader,” Beckman means thinking about the microbiome less in terms of bacteria and more about the microbiome as an organ. Just as people grasp good and bad heart health, they can understand the microbiome in a more holistic way as well, he said.

Maybe not surprising, the survey​ also demonstrated more people were familiar with probiotics than they were with pre and post biotics.

“I think it's just the amount of money that's been put into probiotics all the way back with [actress and spokesperson] Jamie Lee Curtis talking about probiotics and Activia,” Beckman said. “All the messaging, all the dollars have been put toward probiotics.”

He added: “Now we're throwing out this thing called postbiotics, confusing the consumer. But I think it's just an evolution. And I think as we change the discussion from specific bacteria to microbiome health, I think all these different formats will have a place. They all do different things in terms of how they help, both physically and as well as how your systems are working.”

Other applications

Celestia Howe, director of marketing for Verb Biotics, said there was a wide range of applications survey respondents sought from pre, pro and postbiotics. The top usage was for immune health followed by regulating bowel movements. She said there was also interest in applications for sleep, mood, aging, inflammation and to improve energy and stamina.

“We realized that typically people are looking for basic digestive and immune health, but there are lot of other applications that people are looking at that biotics can address,” Howe said. “And I think that's another educational opportunity that the biotics industry can have.”

Howe explained that Verb Biotics promotes the idea of “full integration” rather than a focus on the GI tract.

“We're looking at this ecosystem of microbial cells and how this ecosystem moves back and forth between the mind and the gut, and how it improves and impacts our overall health, not just digestive health,” she said. “It’s also about mental health, women's health, sleep. There are so many things that we're learning, and I think we're just at the cusp.”

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