Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What are probiotics?
- What is the gut?
- What are the health benefits of probiotics?
- What are the different types of probiotics?
- What foods contain probiotics?
- What are the side effects and risks of probiotics?
- How should people take probiotics?
- Where can I get more information on probiotics?
What foods contain probiotics?
Fermented dairy products have been advertised as containing "beneficial cultures." These cultures are what would now be considered probiotics. Other foods currently claiming to provide probiotics are cereal, juice, frozen yogurt, granola, candy bars, and cookies. While they may contain probiotics, there is no guarantee that they have them in the amount or in the form that is necessary to get the health benefits you are looking for. Only the manufacturer of the product can tell you if there are any studies to support their specific product.
What are the side effects and risks of probiotics?
Supplements are not monitored in the U.S. the way that food or medication is. They fall under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). This requires that the dietary supplement or dietary ingredient manufacturer be responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement or ingredient is safe before it is marketed. The only time that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may get involved is if action is needed to be taken against a manufacturer after the supplement is marketed and then found to be unsafe. This means that as much as we may know about probiotics, we can't be certain of the safety or content of the supplements available to us.
There is one Voluntary Certification Program by which a supplement manufacturer can choose to be evaluated. ConsumerLab.com (CL) is the leading provider of independent test results and information to help consumers and health care professionals identify the best quality health and nutrition products. Products that have passed their testing for identity, strength, purity, and disintegration can print the CL Seal of Approval on their product. This is one step toward being confident that you are getting the amount and type of probiotic promised by the manufacturer.
While some studies have shown many health benefits of probiotics, more research still needs to be done to be sure that they are safe and effective as a supplement and in foods. This is especially true for children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems. For people with suppressed immune systems due to disease or treatment for a disease (such as cancer chemotherapy), taking probiotics may actually increase your chances of getting sick. Always speak with your doctor before taking any supplement under these circumstances.
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