Should Probiotics Be Added To All Our Food?

Categories: Health & Nutrition

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines

It's not just kombucha and yogurt: Probiotics are now showing up in dozens of packaged foods. But what exactly do these designer foods with friendly flora actually offer — besides a high price tag?

Picture a dusty, nomadic herdsman around 5000 B.C., trudging with his mare somewhere in Central Asia, and pausing to quaff a refreshingly tart yogurt drink from his gourd. Fast-forward to the present day, and it seems all you need for your daily dose of friendly flora is to wander into the kitchen and pop a breakfast burrito in the microwave.

The market for food-based probiotics is growing so rapidly that probiotics are now showing up in dozens of packaged foods, from drinks to desserts, cold brew coffee and cheese bits. Forty-two percent of Americans want more probiotics in their diet, up from only 12 percent in 2008, according to a 2015 poll by Maryellen Molyneaux, president of Natural Marketing Institute, a health and wellness market-research firm.

"Seven out of 10 probiotic users get their daily dose from yogurt and supplements," says Mollyneux, "but many other sources are emerging, from sauerkraut to kombucha."

Sales of kombucha — the tangy, fermented tea beverage cultured with a blend of yeast and bacteria — soared to nearly $400 million in 2014, up from $100 million in 2009, according to global market research firm Euromonitor International. One can now find probiotics in butter substitutes, granola, "pressed probiotic water" — even drinking straws packed with probiotics, which you can dip into the beverage of your choice.

But what exactly do these designer foods with friendly flora actually offer — besides a high price tag and fancy packaging?

"We should all be eating kefirs, yogurts and sauerkraut," says Reid. "Their lactic acid bacteria are good for us."

Take a look at the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in the US; the 2016 version was just released (a separate guide is available for Canada here). The guide reviews indications, dosages, and clinical evidence to date for dozens of common organisms and strains. "This guide lets you know which organisms have been documented sufficiently to be recommended," says Reid.

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via NPR

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