Does the ‘bad science’ behind probiotics turn your stomach?
Do you drink probiotics every morning? Do you think they’re good for your gut and promote ‘friendly bacteria’ for a healthy digestive system? They may do all these things, but are these claims backed by good science?
I’ve always been intrigued by probiotic drinks. The promise of ‘good bacteria’ tidying things in there is a nice, if not an entirely pleasant, thought.
However, I’ve always questioned why I couldn’t just get the same benefits from a yoghurt, some vitamins, or (even better) a healthy and balanced diet. Is spending £2.50 a week on these little bottles really going to do my gut as much good as they claim?
Lower your cholesterol?
And it’s the ‘scientific’ claims that get to me. Many food products boast that they will do miraculous things for your gut/brain/blood, and most of us presume they’re backed by proper scientific trials.
Do you take claims such as ‘this will lower your cholesterol’, ‘this product is good for your joints’, or ‘this drink will maintain normal blood pressure’ at face value? It’d be nice if we could, but such health benefits aren’t always backed by hard evidence.
Thankfully the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been busy putting these health claims under the microscope to form an approved list. We’ve talked about this list before, where an incredible 80% of health claims were ruled to be false. However, some health claims were still being debated, with probiotic drinks being one of them.
‘Healthy intestinal flora’
Probiotic producers resubmitted their claims as they felt that they had the evidence to back up statements including probiotics ‘promote healthy intestinal flora to support bowel function’, they ‘help maintain digestive balance by promoting “good bacteria” levels’ and they ‘promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria’.
The EFSA has ruled out all of these claims as there is not enough evidence to suggest a cause and effect relationship. Such phrases will no longer be allowed to be used in probiotic advertising or on their packets.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with people buying food products because they think they’re good for them, but if this belief has been fed by unsubstantiated health claims, they could be splashing out on a product for the wrong reasons. It’s good to see that food makers will have do a bit more work before they can make bold claims about their product.
In other news, here’s a health claim you can trust – the EFSA has ruled that prunes do indeed promote normal bowel function… now there’s some movement in the food industry.
Do you take health claims on foods at face value?
Maybe - it depends on the particular claim (47%, 118 Votes)
No - I don't believe food health claims (43%, 109 Votes)
Yes - I presume such claims are regulated (10%, 17 Votes)
Total Voters: 251
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