I enjoyed my morning yogurt with some fresh seasonal berries. But are the advertising claims about probiotics being great for us true? The answer is maybe.
First of all, let’s identify what we’re talking about. Probiotics are live bacteria that resemble or are the same as microorganisms found naturally in the human body. The natural microorganisms found in the body – and especially in the lower gastrointestinal tract –plays a key role in helping the body function naturally. Many people believe that eating additional probiotics, which are commonly found in yogurt, dietary supplements, suppositories and creams, reinforce our health.
The dietary types of probiotics often used in the United States are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These groups include a variety of specific types of bacteria. Furthermore, each group may be responsible for different health benefits.
Interestingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any claims of health benefits due to probiotics. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine points out that strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most health conditions is really sparse.
Researchers have found some evidence that probiotics may shorten the duration of diarrhea as well as reduce the frequency of stool; however, researchers aren’t sure which types of probiotics should be used for which group of patients. There also is substantial evidence that probiotics can help with atopic eczema. Promising research is emerging about probiotics and childhood respiratory infections, tooth decay, nasal pathogens, gastroenteritis relapses caused by C diff bacteria, and inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers are seeing some signs that probiotics may lower the side effects associated with treatment for another infection that is the cause of most stomach ulcers and may reduce the risk of nectrotizing enterocolitis, which is found in premature newborns.
A new study adds to the evidence being discovered about potential benefits of probiotics. The study out of Australia involved a meta-analysis of nine high-quality studies that examined blood pressure and probiotic consumption in 543 adults who had normal blood pressure or elevated blood pressure. The researchers determined the following:
- Eating probiotics lowered both blood pressure numbers. Systolic blood pressure (the higher number in the blood pressure equation, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats) dropped by 3.56 millimeters of mercury while diastolic blood pressure (the lower number, which measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats) decreased by an average of 2.38 millimeters of mercury among the group that consumed probiotics. The group that didn’t consume probiotics did not experience these changes.
People with the highest diastolic blood pressure (130/85) had the greatest positive effects from eating probiotics.
You need to eat probiotics for a significant period of time before these health benefits show up. Consuming these bacteria for less than eight weeks didn’t lower either of the blood pressure numbers.
Try to purchase probiotics that have a daily bacteria volume of 109-10 12 colony-forming units (CFU) since these tend to improve blood pressure. Probiotics with a lower level of CFU weren’t found to lower blood pressure.
Probiotics that contain multiple bacteria actually lowered blood pressure more than the type that includes a single type of bacteria.
So should you consume probiotics? I would say that you should be careful if you have underlying health conditions. That’s because experts point out that data on long-term safety of using probiotics is limited and a risk of serious side effects due to probiotics may actually be greater in people who already have health conditions. So if you’re going to consume or use them regularly, I’d encourage you to seek advice from your health care professional.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Heart Association. (2014). Eating probiotics regularly may improve your blood pressure.
American Heart Association. (2014). Understanding blood pressure readings.
Khalesi, S., et al. (2014). Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2012). Oral probiotics: An introduction.
Published On: July 30, 2014