Friday, April 16, 2010

"Product Contains Probiotics", Really?

Thanks to everyone who read yesterday's post, and re-tweeted the message! I truly think our government is a lost cause when it comes to doing something about the confusion and lack of consistency that surrounds health and wellness. I hope Ellen will see our Tweets and start helping us spread the REAL message. Obviously this is wishful thinking, but it's always worth a try. So much needs to be done, and it won't happen overnight. This is something that will takes YEARS to tackle, but we have to start NOW!


I read an article in Nutrition Action Healthletter the other day, which focused on probiotics. Here is some information I pulled from the article, which I thought you might find interesting.

- When buying a probiotic product, look for the specific strain. Unfortunately most products do not disclose the strain, only the genus and species of the bacteria. If you are looking for more specific health benefits (such as reduction of diarrhea, help for IBS, etc.), the strain must be known, or else the name of the probiotic really means nothing. For example, Lactobacillus (group) acidophilus (species), what's the strain?? Sometimes it takes an e-mail or a phone call to the company. If you are just looking for the general health benefits of probiotics, such as help for lactose intolerance, or restoring a healthy GI tract, the strain may not be necessary.

- Dose matters! Just because a product has probiotics, doesn't mean it's going to be helpful. If the product does not list the amount of probiotics, what's the point of buying it? For clinical benefits it's important to have at least a billion live probiotics, but most products on the market these days don't even have close to that amount. This doesn't mean the probiotics that you are consuming aren't helpful, as they do add up. If you're just looking to re-establish a healthy digestive system, even a million will help (but I'm doubtful that some of these products even have a million!). Remember there is no one in charge of making sure these companies are being honest with these probiotic claims. Nor is there anyone regulating the doses in each product.

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Survival matters! Yogurt and other dairy products are the best way to get probiotics because the milk acts as a buffer and makes the stomach acids less active and less able to destroy the probiotic (yes, your stomach acid will kill the probiotic, unless the company has created a probiotic that can survive your stomach acid, which very few companies have done). Look for companies who have had a THIRD PARTY investigation of the viability of their probiotics (ie: can they handle your GI system? Are they shelf-stable? Have they survived the manufacturing process?). Don't waste your money on products that can not prove viability. Also, be aware that products that sit on the shelf for a long time may be loosing their probiotics, slowly, but surely.


Some of the products of which I'm skeptical are the teas that claim to contain probiotics.. I'm really wondering if they are worth their outstanding price (in my opinion, paying any more than $2 for tea is ridiculous). Many of the teas I see simply list the probiotic, but not the amount, and of course not the strain (to read more about KOMBUCHA tea, check out this article). There is no requirement for the use of the word "probiotic" on a label, so pretty much anyone can use it! The Nutrition Action Healthletter looked at a few products, and here is what they found:

1) Activia: May speed transit time (time it takes for food to be digested, basically) and may help relieve stomach grumbling and gas. However, unlike the claim on the label, it's still not clear whether it can help with occasional irregularity.

2) Yoplait Plus: There is little published evidence that this product helps with, well, anything! I do still think the probiotics in this product are helpful for the general population, but are they any more helpful than the typical yogurt? Probably not, so I wouldn't waste my money.

3) Bigelow Probiotics Tea: Unlikely to do much to aid digestion (such as the claim indicates).

SPEAKING OF TEA..... Coco is having a TEA giveaway! This tea doesn't make any crazy promises, just that it's delicious and fresh. That's all I need in a tea :)

Here is where I get my probiotics; KEFIR! Kefir is a natural source of probiotics, and it's a dairy product so at least I know my stomach acid will be slightly buffered and thus less likely to kill the beneficial probiotics. If I had a more specific condition, which warranted more probiotics, I would look for a respected supplement with the specific strains listed, and THIRD PARTY research to back up all of their claims. The information about probiotics is exhausting, but to learn more, visit USProbiotics.org.


I also get my probiotics from yogurt. Thanks for delivering these yogurts for our 5k race tomorrow, Chobani!



Coming Up
Starting today I'm pretty much busy, busy, busy, 24/7. I have a ton of work to catch up on, a 5k race to tackle in the morning (I'm not running, just organizing the race....), and then a trip to the casino boats down south, for which we are leaving right after tomorrow's morning race. On Sunday I'll (hopefully) be posting a recap of the 5k race. I hope it's a hit!

Thanks for reading everyone, and have a great weekend.

30 comments :

  1. Wow-- thanks for this post! I had no idea that I should be looking for products with 1 BILLION probiotics!!

    Sounds like you have a great weekend planned! Have fun!

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  2. Always awesome info, Gina! :)
    Have a great, fun weekend!

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  3. great info Gina! bottom line: i need to get kefir!!!! I can't believe I haven't tried it yet!
    good luck with tomorrow's 5k race! just out of curiosity, why you are not running it?

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  4. I was appalled with that slimfast bit!!

    I actually got an email from Medifast yesterday asking me to showcase their shakes and freeze dried food on my blog... Can you believe that? I was proud of myself because i sent a polite email back to decline. But I informed them that they need to read what the blog is about before they try to get us to market their goods!

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  5. im happy to see kefir on the list! love kefir <3

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  6. I have to tell you that I'm loving your blog! I'm learning so much good info!

    Have you heard of that new Attune chocolate that claims to have probiotics? I'm skeptical. I won some in a giveaway, so when it comes I'm going to have to check out the label!

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  7. thank you for this info! must try the kefir....never had! have a great day and weekend :)

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  8. Great info, girl! I really want to try kefir! Will get some this weekend. :)

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  9. Good luck with the 5k tomorrow! I so would participate if I were close!

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  10. I feel like too many items these days are slapping "probiotics" onto their label, when in actuality they probably contain little to no live probiotics. I have actually heard that when tested, much of the probiotics in many brands of yogurt had already died. I am one though who believes in Kombucha and its probiotics. I really notice its effects when I drink it, such as aiding my digestion and bowel movements. But yeah, it's really expensive, so it's best to either make your own or view it as a teat. Great post!

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  11. Great post! I have to pick up some Kefir, I still haven't tried it!

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  12. Great post. Lots of useful info in this one. I always wanted to know more about probiotics, I just had not gotten around to researching it yet. Good luck with helping with the 5k!

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  13. Great info. I think that with the lack of regulation of terms, people buy products that really cost a lot but do not provide all the benefit that is promised. I also get asked a lot of probiotics and prebiotics, and I even cover it, although briefly, in the course I teach in nutrition at Kaplan. The book also only briefly mentions it, but it is still an interesting topic.

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  14. Ah so much to remember! I bought some probiotics from my health food store and I hope they are a good kind. I tried to ask the guy for help and he wasn't very knowledgeable...which annoying! Why do you have a specialist in the vitamin/supplement section if they never KNOW anything? So this post really helps.

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  15. thank the lord for my daily consumption of greek yogs haha and that sounds good enough for me in priobs dept!!

    have a fun weekend lady!

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  16. Gina, I just want to say thank you on behalf of all your readers. You are ALWAYS giving us great information and we are so LUCKY to have you, opening our eyes.

    I hope that Ellen sees what you are trying to do!!!!! Keep fighting because I swear that it is not being done in vain! =)

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  17. I love posts that serve a "public message" bent because this is the new method of information tranmission. Have you considered Micael Pollan's work? I read him years ago and you would love him!

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  18. Good info on probiotics- I think I need to look into my yogurt a bit more.

    Good luck with your 5k race tomorrow, I know its going to go awesome!

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  19. I agree...you really have to know the type and strain before spending a lot of money on probiotics. Also, what kinds to teas claim to have probiotics? If it's any sort of tea that has to be heated up, I'd nix that right away. Probiotics are usually heat sensitive.

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  20. Thanks for the recap. I hate how so much information on labels is so vague. It is so easy for consumers to think they are getting a certain benefit from a food.
    Good luck with the 5K!

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  21. GREAT info! I think probiotics are a very gray area for consumers and I've just become more educated on them recently, a lot in thanks to your posts on them! I agree though, Kefir is a great way to get in some awesome, LIVE probiotics. I had a glass this morning, actually :)

    Have a great weekend and fun at the boats!!

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  22. what a fantastic post on probiotics!! What a great stash for the 5 k too! Have a great weekend Gina!

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  23. I've been wondering about probiotics. There are so many products that claim to have them in them. I'm going to refer to the link you provided when I'm questioning an item.

    So nice of chobani to donate yogurt to your 5k! Can't wait to hear all about it!

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  24. Great info! I take a probiotic that has "1 billion active cultures" so I have the right # at least. If it says active but not live, is it still delivering what I need?

    Good luck with your race tomorrow!!!

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  25. I've been wondering about kombucha for awhile. When I tried to do a little research, I could find no peer reviewed studies anywhere. I actually wrote a post about it.

    The thing is, I do love kombucha, so I'm going to continue drinking it. At least it has B vitamins and since I eat little meat, it couldn't hurt to get more of those!

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  26. Good luck with the 5K, hope it's a big success.

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  27. Gina, you should have your own TV show - the Nutrition Sluth! Solving nutrition mysteries and bringing truth to the grocery isles! :-) OK, maybe I sounded a bit silly... :-) but seriously, I LOVE how you bring honest, clear, important information to our attention and clear away all the false info! YAY Gina!

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  28. Oh yeah kefir! well for me, homemade yogurt and kefir are the best :) I've been seeing more and more foods that contain probiotics such as chocolate bars. Here's a good video that talks about probiotics, some of the sources, and why it's good or bad : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neHbUI2JiPw

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