More testing of what is in Commercial Probiotics

A new study on Commercial Probiotics

A few posts ago, I reported

“A new study by scientists at the University of California has found that contents of many bifidobacteria probiotic products differ from the ingredients listed….16 products.. only one matched the ingredient list .. Some products also contained non-label species” [Source 2015] –OUCH!

I then found a site that tests some commercial probiotics for actual Community Forming  Units (CFU). Doing a general search I found this site is helpful for finding CFU in various probiotics: https://labdoor.com/rankings/probiotics 

This morning email found a link to a new study published [Telegraph] [UCL] [PubMed 2015]. I have extracted a table below from this study:

Brand CFU as Claimed Survived Pig Stomach fluids Thrive in 10 hrs
Actimel
L.Casei DN-114001
Yes NO Yes
Symprove Yes Yes Yes
Align
B. Infantis
NO NO NO
Bio Balance (?)
L.Reuteri
NO NO NO
Bio Kult
Multi strains
NO NO NO
Yakult L.Casei Shirota Yes Partially (10 min) NO
VSL#3
8 strains
NO Yes Yes

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There are several factors that need to be considered looking at studies with the above. We do not need a grain of salt, but we may need a blob of fat!

  • If there have been well constructed human studies with the above probiotics with strong results — then that trumps the results of any tests such as those performed above.
  • In my prior post(When to take probiotics), we found research that probiotics taken with food or immediately before survived much better than on an empty stomach (a little fat with probiotic is a must IMHO). These tests were done with the “empty stomach” model — the worst case scenario.
  • Many studies use animals — in those cases, transit time may be far faster than that seen in humans, resulting in results that may not replicate in humans.
  • Diet impact transit times. A high bulk/fiber diet may result in 6+ stool movements a day. Other diets may be just once a day. Thus the results for pig stomach acid may not apply.
  • It is unclear is the tests were were ALL of the strains in a multi-strains, or ANY of the strains.

Symprove

Available in UK only. Contains (as ordered on label):

  • L. Rhamnosus
  • E. Faecium
  • L. Plantarum
  • L. Acidophilus

Why did it do so well? While they claim (based on beliefs)

  • “Critically, Symprove is water-based so it doesn’t trigger digestion, meaning it SURVIVES the hostile environment of your stomach.”
  • I believe that the “germinated barley” is the equivalent of “with food”. “Barley is one of the best starchy foods which makes it very suitable for the treatment of problems such as:…” [source]
Symprove has a *single* pubmed study [2014] on it. When I read “a statistically significant improvement in overall symptom severity” it means that the improvement is so slight that they have to use statistics to detect it. “There was no significant improvement in the IBS quality of life .”
So, it is very unlikely to be worth the expense.

Bottom Line

For human use, the CFU findings are valid. The results seen were using the empty stomach model which we know maximize the non-survivability of probiotics; a little fat with, and immediately prior to meals are how we know (now) that probiotics should be taken. The results of two L.Casei strains are significantly different — this reinforces that strains are very significant.

So, YES – check out the CFU results on the above sites, in selecting probiotics … and remember to take probiotics with some form of fat (milk, lard, etc).