Probiotics are unlikely to benefit healthy people
12 May 2016
Taking probiotic supplements with the aim of improving gastrointestinal health is unlikely to benefit people who are well, according to a large review.
The most commonly used probiotic agents are bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups, which form part of a normal healthy intestinal population of microorganisms. Other probiotics include the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.
The study, which investigated the effect of probiotics on the microbial populations in the guts (faecal microbiota) of healthy adults, found no convincing evidence for their use.
This is despite probiotic products being widely marketed to maintain digestive health.
“No effects were observed on the faecal microbiota composition in terms of diversity, richness or evenness in any of the included studies when compared to placebo (dummy treatment),” write the authors in Genome Medicine.
They found that of the 7 original trials included in the study, only one observed significant changes in the composition of bacterial species making up the faecal microbiota of probiotic users.
An international consensus on what defines a normal or healthy faecal microbial community is lacking, but the researchers say their systematic review demonstrates a lack of evidence of any benefit of probiotic supplements in healthy adults.