Do probiotic supplements protect health?
Pre- and probiotics appear to improve mental health, reducing symptoms of depression. Is there such an effect with probiotic food supplements and do they also help with digestive problems and intestinal diseases?
The latest research from the University of Brighton and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School investigated how effective probiotic supplements are compared to real foods to protect health. The results were published in the English language journal "BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health".
Results from seven studies were analyzed
For the study, the results of seven studies on the pre- and probiotic intake in people with depression were evaluated. It was shown that these people experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms compared to people without treatment (or taking placebo). However, it is still not clear what the protective effect is based on and which specific beneficial bacteria are responsible for it.
Are probiotics really that healthy?
The new results complement a long list of potential benefits of probiotics, ranging from weight loss to longer life. Many companies market their supplements and products based on these claims. Unfortunately, the advertising of probiotic food supplements often goes far beyond what has been scientifically proven. Claims that probiotic supplements contribute to weight loss and improved athletic performance, for example, are at least essentially based on the truth.
Do the benefits of probiotics apply to people?
In other areas, the scientific evidence is much thinner. For example, research has shown that the microbiome in mice affects weight loss and mental health. However, research is still far from proving causal in human health. Mice are not human. The researchers emphasize that something that works very well in mice need not necessarily have the same effect in humans.
Taking supplements for digestive problems?
It is true that some probiotics are approved for the treatment of very specific diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and some urinary tract infections. However, this is not a reason for otherwise perfectly healthy people to spend money on probiotic products. The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) recently published a report on the subject, indicating that probiotic use is not recommended for most digestive problems, on the grounds that current evidence is very poor.
Due to the complexity of the human microbiome and the many individual variables, such evidence is likely to be a long time in coming, if found, the researchers report. In the meantime, people should therefore promote their microbiome in an old-fashioned and scientifically substantiated way: through their diet. For example, it is important to eat enough fiber and not to consume too much sugar. So-called ultra-processed foods should also be avoided. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Sanjay Noonan, Meena Zaveri, Elaine Macaninch, Kathy Martyn: Food & mood: a review of supplementary prebiotic and probiotic interventions in the treatment of anxiety and depression in adults, in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health (published 06.07.2020), BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health
- AGA does not recommend the use of probiotics for most digestive conditions, American Gastroenterological Association (published June 9th, 2020), AGA