As consumer interest grows in probiotics and other supplements that claim to regulate gut microbes, experts are posing a critical question: Are they safe?
Probiotics are increasingly popular, from Greek yogurt and kombucha to pills chock-full of bacteria in the supplement section of the grocery store. But a new analysis published [July 16] in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that many studies of probiotics and similar products fail to adequately report on safety and adverse events. And without that information, the authors say, it’s impossible to broadly conclude whether the products are safe.
The study looked at how often those downsides were studied in 384 randomized, controlled trials of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics.
The study’s authors found that 37 percent of trials didn’t report safety results and 28 percent didn’t report harms-related data.
Reporting of serious adverse events was even less common: 80 percent of the trials didn’t report the number of serious problems that cropped up during the study. And almost none of the studies included a definition of adverse events or serious adverse events.
“We can’t say if the probiotics are safe or not, because we don’t have the data,” said Aida Bafeta, one of the study’s authors and an epidemiologist at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Lausanne.
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