By Jan Hales, The Nutrition Bureau

Probiotics, gut health and fermented foods are hot topics, and attending the education session on Probiotics was indeed a highlight at this year’s FNCE.  As research emerges and we learn more about the impact the microbiome (the body’s population of bacteria) has on our health, we’re also determining how we can best manipulate this through what we eat.

Dr Daniel Merenstein, Professor of Family Medicine at Georgetown University and a leading clinical probiotic researcher, provided the following insights on the probiotics and their efficacy with respect to the current evidence-based research.

Dr Merenstein offered useful tips on how best to select a probiotic, based on the current research (noting there is still much more we can learn from the microbiome). Much of this information is readily available through the IAPP website, which can be a useful tool for clinicians. When choosing a probiotic, Dr Merenstein suggested looking for the following:

  • What’s the bacterial genus, species and strain in the product?
  • How many live bacteria are present in a serving or dose through the expiration date (this usually differs most between probiotic foods vs supplements)?
  • Has the product been evaluated in clinical studies? What has it been shown to do? What is the effective dose? Will it deliver the benefit you are seeking?
  • Although specific to the U.S. market, the AEProbio website also offers a good summary of the current clinical evidence for various probiotics and is a useful tool for choosing a probiotic.

The body of scientific research into the benefits of probiotics on human health continues to grow. From supporting digestive health to improving immune function, assisting weight control, and reducing the risk of eczema; the future will undoubtedly include a host of further research into probiotics and the development of new products onto the market. As dietitians, navigating this space for our clients will become increasingly important, as similar to a diet being tailored for each person, so too should be the chosen probiotic.

Other useful resources/further reading  (probiotics)

International Science Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. https://isappscience.org/clinicians/