We still don’t really know what probiotics do

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Probiotics are having a moment. The tiny buggers are marketed as health enhancers for adults, for kids, and even for dogs. You can now pop a capsule, swig a fruit drink or eat an energy bar that’s been spiked with probiotics, which the World Health Organization defines as “live microorganisms” that “confer a health benefit on the host” as long as enough of them enter the system.

But there is still so much we don’t know about whether and how the probiotic products now on the shelves — which most commonly contain bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera — can improve health. Probiotic supplements (and to a lesser extent, prebiotics) have been studied for a host of ailments, including digestive problems, allergic disorders, obesity, dental problems, the common cold, high cholesterol and gestational diabetes. But there’s limited evidence that they work for any but a handful of conditions. The probiotic craze has gotten ahead of the science.

At the very basic level, we don’t understand how probiotics work. “There’s a black box in between giving the [probiotic] and the health effects,” said David Mills, a professor of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis.

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Read full, original post: Probiotics Won’t Fix All Your Health Problems

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