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posted by martyb on Wednesday January 27 2016, @03:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the avoid-the-amateur-biotics dept.

The "good bacteria," or probiotics, that fill the pomegranate drink are everywhere these days, in pills and powders marketed as super supplements. Probiotics are said to improve digestive and immune health. They're touted as potential treatments for conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to eczema to tooth decay. Some marketing campaigns even hint that they can prevent the flu.

Scientific evidence, however, does not necessarily support those claims.

Studies in rodents and small groups of humans point to possible health benefits of consuming probiotics. But there have been only a few large human trials — in large part because Food and Drug Administration rules have dissuaded food companies and federally funded researchers from conducting the types of studies that could confirm, or refute, the proposed benefits of consuming "good" microbes.

http://www.statnews.com/2016/01/21/probiotics-shaky-science/


Original Submission

Related Stories

FDA to More Strictly Regulate Homeopathic Drugs 47 comments

The FDA is proposing a new, risk-based enforcement approach to homeopathic drug products (alternative medicine):

To protect consumers who choose to use homeopathic products, this proposed new approach would update the FDA's existing policy to better address situations where homeopathic treatments are being marketed for serious diseases and/or conditions but where the products have not been shown to offer clinical benefits. It also covers situations where products labeled as homeopathic contain potentially harmful ingredients or do not meet current good manufacturing practices.

Under the law, homeopathic drug products are subject to the same requirements related to approval, adulteration and misbranding as any other drug product. However, prescription and nonprescription drug products labeled as homeopathic have been manufactured and distributed without FDA approval under the agency's enforcement policies since 1988.

"In recent years, we've seen a large uptick in products labeled as homeopathic that are being marketed for a wide array of diseases and conditions, from the common cold to cancer. In many cases, people may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse – that may cause significant and even irreparable harm because the products are poorly manufactured, or contain active ingredients that aren't adequately tested or disclosed to patients," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "Our approach to regulating homeopathic drugs must evolve to reflect the current complexity of the market, by taking a more risk-based approach to enforcement. We respect that some individuals want to use alternative treatments, but the FDA has a responsibility to protect the public from products that may not deliver any benefit and have the potential to cause harm."

FDA draft guidance (8 pages).

Also at Ars Technica and STAT News.

Related: Probiotics Come with Bold Health Claims, but the Science is Shaky
What a Gottlieb-Led FDA Might Mean for the Pharmaceutical Industry
Supplement Maker on FDA Blacklist After Deadly Bacteria Found in Water System
FDA Designates MDMA as a "Breakthrough Therapy" for PTSD; Approves Phase 3 Trials
Homeopathic "Healing Bracelet" Poisons Baby With High Levels of Lead
FDA: Love is Not an Ingredient
FDA Cracking Down on Unsubstantiated Cannabidiol Health Claims
FDA Blocks More Imports of Kratom, Warns Against Use as a Treatment for Opioid Withdrawal
Biohackers Disregard FDA Warning on DIY Gene Therapy


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by ikanreed on Wednesday January 27 2016, @03:40PM

    by ikanreed (3164) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @03:40PM (#295351) Journal

    Virtually every product with a shred of relationship to health is marketed as a panacea. It's to the point where if it's written in bold font on a product its value is essentially nil.

    I would like to extend a hearty "fuck you" to Utah Senator Orin Hatch who pushed the "If it doesn't claim to treat a disease, the FDA doesn't need to review it" law in 1996. The health marketplace was confusing enough with decently validated information being the only kind you'd see on labels.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Francis on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:42PM

      by Francis (5544) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:42PM (#295390)

      It depends what you're buying, sometimes it's pretty clear that it's working, but most of the time you have no idea. Anything that's going to work on the gut is going to require a massive dosage to work. One capsule compared with the volume of the large intestine is unlikely to produce any meaningful change, but if you're talking about a half quarter of bacteria rich food, there's at least some possibility of there being a change.

      That's one of the reasons for the fecal transplants. It's a large number of bacteria that get introduced right into the colon. Unfortunately, they've had issues at times with the selection being wrong and resulting in changes to the types of bacteria that are present compared with the patients original bacteria prior to illness.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:55PM (#295433)

        It depends what you're buying, sometimes it's pretty clear that it's working, but most of the time you have no idea.

        Here. I'm going to give you a big clue. Put down the supplements. About the only thing those supplements enhance is the bottom line of the manufacturer. You want something that actually works? Do you really? I will tell you the secret. Actually, it's no secret at all. In fact, your doctor has been giving you this advice for decades. Here it is: (1) eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; (2) eat only lean meats; (3) avoid processed foods (i.e., junk foods, processed sugars, processed meats); get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, ideally spread out over four to six days. If you do these things, your health is bound to improve. Over the last several months I have been doing this and I have managed to lose ~30 pounds! Yes, it takes some will power and effort but it can be done. At least that has been my experience. And to head off any naysayers, no, you don't need an expensive gym membership to get some regular exercise. About all you need is enough floor space in your house to do sit ups and push ups and a good pair of running shoes. That's it.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:18PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:18PM (#295474)

          I suppose you are a hardcore libertarian.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Tork on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:30PM

            by Tork (3914) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:30PM (#295493)
            When did reasoned advice about diet an exercise become a sign of an extreme political view?
            --
            Slashdolt Logic: "25 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:45PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:45PM (#295543)
              Right around the same time that reasoned advice about diet and exercise started being considered "fat shaming."
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:56PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:56PM (#295552)
                Never happened.
            • (Score: 1) by Francis on Thursday January 28 2016, @03:17AM

              by Francis (5544) on Thursday January 28 2016, @03:17AM (#295742)

              It's not well reasoned advice. Do you have any idea what doctors tell people to do in terms of their health? A lot of the advice is solid, but there's a ton of it that's based upon questionable research and subject to change. It wasn't that long ago that doctors were recommending low fat diets even though there's never been any real evidence that it was healthy for typical people.

              Now they're recommending extremely low salt intake that leaves people vulnerable to the health consequences of running low. The maximum level recommended is the minimum level that humans generally need for proper health.

              The problem is that the intakes being recommended are low and they fail to account for the fact that people come in various sizes. Unless you're actually having problems with blood pressure there's absolutely no reason to pay attention to the recommendations. I almost died from low sodium levels because I don't have much of a taste for salt and I had been sweating a ton. But, the doctors acted like I was doing something crazy when really I was just within the normal recommendations for sodium intake and ran out of it.

              Eating a proper diet goes a long ways towards proper health, but considering how much exposure people get to antibiotics and the general antiseptic nature of modern society, you have to replace the bacteria somehow. The question is which ones and how much. A tiny pill is unlikely to have enough to make a meaningful difference in most cases.

              • (Score: 2) by Tork on Thursday January 28 2016, @03:22AM

                by Tork (3914) on Thursday January 28 2016, @03:22AM (#295745)
                Huh? I was't talking about doctors, I was talking about the person who made the post the AC described as 'libertarian'.
                --
                Slashdolt Logic: "25 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @04:12AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @04:12AM (#295763)

                It's not well reasoned advice. Do you have any idea what doctors tell people to do in terms of their health? A lot of the advice is solid, but there's a ton of it that's based upon questionable research and subject to change. It wasn't that long ago that doctors were recommending low fat diets even though there's never been any real evidence that it was healthy for typical people.

                I think you need to look at the information coming your way with a more critical eye. A distinction needs to be made between, on the one hand, the recommendations of organizations such as the AMA and, on the other hand, the latest controversial research finding blasted across the news wires. Also, you should take the advice of, for example, the AMA more seriously than the advice of some celebrity like Dr Oz. Not all of these sources of information are equally credible. It is up to you to apply some filters to that information. While it is true that the recommendations of the medical community have sometimes changed, they have usually been rather steady in their recommendations on what we need to do to maintain our health.

                Now they're recommending extremely low salt intake that leaves people vulnerable to the health consequences of running low. The maximum level recommended is the minimum level that humans generally need for proper health.

                Do you actually have some credible sources for this claim? I am genuinely curious (and sceptical).

                • (Score: 1) by Francis on Friday January 29 2016, @06:42AM

                  by Francis (5544) on Friday January 29 2016, @06:42AM (#296268)

                  http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20140402/cdc-salt-guidelines-too-low-for-good-health-study-suggests [webmd.com]

                  Bottom line here is that unless you've got high blood pressure there's little reason to reduce your sodium intake and in many cases you'd be better served to just increase your potassium intake. The levels recommended by doctors are low enough that you've got little margin for error during a heat wave as you'll rapidly go through your sodium sweating. For most people, they'll consume an appropriate amount of salt. I'll actually drink saltwater during the summer because I don't generally desire to eat salty foods and wind up running low. Generally within a couple minutes of drinking saltwater I'll perk up and feel much better.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @09:37AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @09:37AM (#295855)

                Eating a proper diet goes a long ways towards proper health, but considering how much exposure people get to antibiotics and the general antiseptic nature of modern society, you have to replace the bacteria somehow. The question is which ones and how much. A tiny pill is unlikely to have enough to make a meaningful difference in most cases.

                You should still get plenty of probiotics from a proper diet. Your proper diet should of course include things like home made kambucha, home made yogurt with live cultures, home made wines, beers, and ciders and I like to eat a good amount of the organic goodies I grab out of my garden unwashed so that I can be sure there are plenty of germs and fungi still on them. Basically a lot of home made cultured goodies should take cares of your gut bacteria and help you get adequate nutrition as well.

                Pick up a book by Sandor Katz. It will change your life.

                I don't like to take a probiotic supplement, because typically they only include one or two species, What if I cause an imbalance of species with unexpected side effects?

              • (Score: 2) by driverless on Friday January 29 2016, @06:24AM

                by driverless (4770) on Friday January 29 2016, @06:24AM (#296259)

                Now they're recommending extremely low salt intake that leaves people vulnerable to the health consequences of running low. The maximum level recommended is the minimum level that humans generally need for proper health.

                I thought the low-salt thing died about a decade ago. Or has it come back into fashion again?

                • (Score: 1) by Francis on Friday January 29 2016, @06:33AM

                  by Francis (5544) on Friday January 29 2016, @06:33AM (#296264)

                  I don't believe the recommendations have changed in recent years. There's still a strong presumption that people are overdoing it with sodium without any evidence to support the idea. As a general rule, sodium isn't something to bother limiting unless there's a health problem specific to the person.

                  And even when a person does have high blood pressure, reducing sodium levels isn't necessarily the answer, increasing potassium levels is often times a better choice.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:39PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:39PM (#295539)

            I suppose you are a hardcore libertarian.

            And why would you suppose that? No, really, I would like to know. I gave the standard advice that just about any responsible doctor would give. Are all doctors "hardcore" libertarians in your view? Or do you find this advice to put away the Cheetos, eat your veggies, and get up off the couch to move around a bit so distastefully austere that you just have to assume it is born of "hardcore" fringe radicals? I tell you what. You just go right on eating your Cheetos and washing them down with a can of Pepsi. Then you can pat yourself on the back when you take a probiotic supplement "for your health". I won't stop you. The results will be predictable. I know. I've been there myself already. But if you really want to improve your health you will almost certainly have to listen to the advice your doctor and your momma have been giving you for decades. Just sayin'.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @11:08PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @11:08PM (#295642)

              Ha! So I take it by your avoidance and re-direct of the question, that he WAS right.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Whoever on Thursday January 28 2016, @03:51AM

          by Whoever (4524) on Thursday January 28 2016, @03:51AM (#295753) Journal

          Actually, it's no secret at all. In fact, your doctor has been giving you this advice for decades.

          Unfortunately, there isn't evidence that all of that advice is actually useful. It's based on possibly flawed assumptions. The medical profession has a horrible reputation making assumptions and pushing out the information as though it was based on real science. Note that I realize that there is plenty of real science that justifies most medical advice, but there is also information that is not based on science.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @04:27AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @04:27AM (#295769)

            Actually, it's no secret at all. In fact, your doctor has been giving you this advice for decades.

            Unfortunately, there isn't evidence that all of that advice is actually useful. It's based on possibly flawed assumptions.

            Really? What "possibly flawed assumptions" might those be? Please tell me more. I am genuinely curious (and sceptical).

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:01AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:01AM (#295799)

          You had me up until "fruits".

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Thexalon on Wednesday January 27 2016, @10:54PM

      by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 27 2016, @10:54PM (#295629)

      And the funny thing about all that is that it's really not all that complicated. Unless you have a medical reason for doing so, the rules come down to:
      1. If you aren't gaining or losing weight by doing this, eat when you're hungry. (If you are, then
      2. Eat a variety of different things.
      3. Make sure you can easily pronounce the ingredients of everything you eat.
      4. Ideally, understand the steps from "part of something that's alive" to "on my plate".

      Yes, the above set of rules means that a steak once a week and a cake on your birthday is probably OK.

      Do that, and something else will probably kill you before your food does. And in the meantime, you'll have actually enjoyed your food, which is not a bad thing. Seriously, when I walk into health food stores and vitamin stores, I see a lot of miserable people nervously worrying about whether quinoa or couscous is better for them - don't be like that.

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 2) by TheReaperD on Wednesday January 27 2016, @11:26PM

        by TheReaperD (5556) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @11:26PM (#295649)

        There is still hopefully be some benefit to those of us that can't follow the standard advice for good health due to past and current medical conditions. Of course that's not why the companies are doing the research but, hopefully people like me will benefit anyway.

        --
        Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:16PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:16PM (#295375)

    The fundamental question of what is it, was not asked in the article, although its a good question.

    In the regular supplement industry, its known that whats on the label only tangentially occasionally relates to what the chemists and DNA sequencers find when they break retail purchased capsules open, especially from big box stores selling Chinese products. A classic example was the ginkgo biloba study a few months back where tablets contained all kinds of interesting plant matter, none of which has anything to do with ginkgo biloba. Which also has some impact on efficacy statistics seeing as researchers usually test with the real thing but retail customers mostly get placebos.

    With probiotics its even worse, because there isn't "the" or "a" probiotic species. Nor a standard dose rate, so hard to say if you're getting a megadose or homeopathy.

    So you're just kinda eating... something. But you don't know what, or how much of it. And based on news reports of the regular supplement industry all you really know for certain is its probably NOT what the label says. That doesn't sound terribly wise. And that leads directly to even more efficacy statistic problems, because you're selecting for users who refuse to think logically about what they eat, the stereotypical would rather die than think types, and they might have disease issues that statistically correlate strongly with stupidity and have nothing to do with either whats in the pills or whats on the label.

    We do live in a weird second patent medicine era. Its very strange.

    Then pile up an even weirder level where nobody cares. All the government wants to do is take away freedom and add taxes, control, regulations, and election fund donations, so they have no interest in fixing it, the corporations like patent medicine profits, and the purchasers just want a placebo. I don't anticipate things getting better any time soon.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:32PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:32PM (#295383)

      So I figured WTH I would give one of these probiotic diets a try. I knew it would not do much I was just being a goof.

      2 bottles of pills that did nothing. The real 'diet' was in the paperwork that came with it. "stop eating sugar for 1 month". Ah I see they are trying to tie the pills to the weight loss but the real weight loss comes from less carbs.

      Tossed out the remainder of the pills. Doing lower sugar, lower carb and more exercise, then I lost weight. Who would have guessed.

      • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:44PM

        by ikanreed (3164) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:44PM (#295393) Journal

        And low carb is, itself, only an easy mental wrapper on the general function of eating fewer calories. You see a lot of claims about ketosis and how it causes weight loss, but these effects tend to be marginal compared to the calorie-cutting effect.

        Carbs are an easy way to get a lot of calories fast, only pure oils and fats are faster. And unlike oils and fats, normal carb consumption includes eating them in near pure form.

        Once you cut out carbs like bread, rice, potatoes, and sugar, the remaining options are either low-calorie or meat.

        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:54PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:54PM (#295399)

          That was sort of my point. It was basically a low carb diet. Not a 'pill' diet. Like I said I was being a goof and doing a 'wth' trial. I knew it would not work.

          Once you cut out carbs like bread, rice, potatoes, and sugar, the remaining options are either low-calorie or meat.
          Very good points. Another one I would like to make is 1 calorie of sugar is not the same as 1 calorie of meat. Your body will snork up the sugar quickly. The meat takes time for you to digest and by the time it is at the intake level it is much less than 1 calorie. The way a calorie is calculated is sort of misleading. We basically set something on fire and boil water then measure the time. It is a 'good' correlation but a rather imperfect one.

          Also many people do not do much credence to the relation of weight vs age. As you age your body changes. Its ability to process food changes. Also your activity levels may change too. You need to keep that in mind. This does not hold true in all cases but it is there. For example in my family in their late 40s to mid 50s weight gain becomes an issue. Up until then they are relativity skinny. So finding a good diet does mean rolling with changes as you age too.

          • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:57PM

            by ikanreed (3164) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:57PM (#295401) Journal

            Glycemic index is indeed a thing, but it's not particularly important to weight-loss. It can matter a fuck-ton if you're a diabetic.

            • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:47PM

              by VLM (445) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:47PM (#295429)

              with everyone being fat and diabetic or pre-diabetic, doesn't that boil down to "everyone" anyway? Its not like low GI foods would impair a skinny athlete anyway.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:56PM

            by VLM (445) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:56PM (#295434)

            Its ability to process food changes. Also your activity levels may change too.

            I've noticed this with my own low carb experiments, where crap tier food like a stereotypical thanksgiving dinner with 500 grams of carbs minimum makes me feel tired but a nice low carb meal and I've got tons of energy.

            You starve yourself on a high carb diet and you feel starved, exhausted, lay on couch and watch TV.. get fat. You starve yourself on low carb diet and feel like you drank an extra cup of tea, go out hiking, take the kids to the park and run around.. get thin. Then some dude tells you "its just calories in equals calories out" yeah sure, but there's this slight subjective difference, like the difference between feeling like a refugee looks vs feeling ten years younger, as if that has no impact on the likelihood of the diet's long term success.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:27PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:27PM (#295489)

              A chunk of carbon probably has a very high calorie number. However, my bodies absorption of it is probably very low.

              My wildly wrong point is I personally use calorie as a rough gauge of what is going on. Next stop is the carbs. Next stop after that is the ingredient list. What ticks me off to no end is the number of different names for sugar and the substitutes that are equivalent to sugar.

              If you come across something where 1 serving is 1500 calories. Something is going on (probably not good). The devil is in the details. Also the dosage makes the poison. It is sort of like smoking. 1 cigarette is not going to instantly give you stage 3 lung cancer. 2 packs a day every day for 25 years probably will.

              And tonight I am eating at 5 guys. I am a sucker for good fries (damn you potato sugar carbs!!! :) ).

        • (Score: 2) by legont on Thursday January 28 2016, @05:41AM

          by legont (4179) on Thursday January 28 2016, @05:41AM (#295788)

          True, but not exactly.

          First, carbs promote overeating. One gets hungry again very soon after say rice or potatoes, while fat takes more time to digest. For me it is almost impossible to overeat meat.

          Second, one can eat say lean chicken, non-fat greek yoghurt and so on bringing down animal fat intake - the biggest argument against Atkins.

          Third, whatever calorie deficit is easily replaced by better fats - nuts, avocado, olive oil.

          The bottom line, it's much easier to cut carbs than to keep so called low calorie balanced diet.

          Besides, most carb foods are carcinogenic, especially whole bread, fries, cookies - basically anything starchy cooked at high temps (acrylamide is known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity in the state of California:)

          Oh, and speaking of reproductive, carbs at night bring testosterone way way down.

          Government or doctors on the other hand will never recommend it simply because there are not enough food out there without carbs.

          --
          "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:10AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:10AM (#295800)

            "One gets hungry again very soon after say rice or potatoes [...]"

            In a study that measured the satiating index of 38 foods, including brown rice and whole-wheat bread, people ranked boiled potatoes highest, reporting that they felt fuller and ate less two hours after consuming them.

            https://abcnews.go.com/Health/10-filling-foods-weight-loss/story?id=21153507 [go.com]

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:59PM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:59PM (#295405) Journal

        I associated probiotics not with pills but with kombucha, sauerkraut/kimchi, and yogurt. You know, products with billions of bacteria floating around in them.

        Does eating Lactobacillus colonized foods help you? Maybe. But many yogurt products have a ton of added sugar.

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        • (Score: 2) by quixote on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:23PM

          by quixote (4355) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:23PM (#295532)

          If they aren't, you have bigger problems than bad bacterial flora in your large intestine.

          What affects the ecology of bacteria in the colon is the contents of the colon. That's composed of undigested food such as different kinds of fiber, the breakdown products of digestion, digestive acids from the liver, breakdown products from the bacteria living there, and so on.

          The reason yoghurt and sauerkraut and fibrous food help is not because of the bacteria they contain. Those (you hope!) got killed in the stomach. They help because by the time you've finished digesting them, what's passing through the large intestine is conducive to the growth of bacteria associated with good health.

          Changing diet can change intestinal ecology drastically, so, yes, what you eat matters for that. But not in the sense that eating, say, Lactobacillus acidophilus somehow makes it all the way to the colon and starts a "good" colony.

          It is possible to introduce specific strains of bacteria to the colon, but it's done from the other end and is called a fecal transplant. And, yes, there's very interesting research coming out showing that changing intestinal ecology can have far-reaching effects on health and disease.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:36PM

            by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:36PM (#295536) Journal

            Are you sure Lactobacillus can't survive the stomach? They do excrete acid after all.

            Well, I looked it up and it turns out THEY CAN:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1489325/ [nih.gov]

            Whether Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus can be recovered after passage through the human gut was tested by feeding 20 healthy volunteers commercial yogurt. Yogurt bacteria were found in human feces, suggesting that they can survive transit in the gastrointestinal tract.

            http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/73/2/399s.full [nutrition.org]

            Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are purportedly beneficial to human health and are called probiotics. Their survival during passage through the human gut, when administered in fermented milk products, has been investigated intensely in recent years. Well-controlled, small-scale studies on diarrhea in both adults and infants have shown that probiotics are beneficial and that they survive in sufficient numbers to affect gut microbial metabolism. Survival rates have been estimated at 20–40% for selected strains, the main obstacles to survival being gastric acidity and the action of bile salts. Although it is believed that the maximum probiotic effect can be achieved if the organisms adhere to intestinal mucosal cells, there is no evidence that exogenously administered probiotics do adhere to the mucosal cells. Instead, they seem to pass into the feces without having adhered or multiplied. Thus, to obtain a continuous exogenous probiotic effect, the probiotic culture must be ingested continually.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1151822/ [nih.gov]

            Probiotics must survive in the acidic gastric environment if they are to reach the small intestine and colonize the host, thereby imparting their benefits. Lactobacillus species are considered intrinsically resistant to acid (51).

            [...] The increased survival of probiotic lactobacilli in acidic conditions in the presence of glucose has been reported previously (7). However, the mechanisms involved were not studied. In addition, it has been reported that lactic acid bacteria are capable of metabolizing glucose at low pH, albeit at lower rates (29, 54). The aims of this study were to evaluate the effect of glucose on L. rhamnosus GG survival in simulated gastric juice, to compare the protective effect of glucose on L. rhamnosus GG survival at low pH with that for other probiotic lactobacilli, and to elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of glucose in acidic conditions.

            See bolded portion and compare to:

            The reason yoghurt and sauerkraut and fibrous food help is not because of the bacteria they contain. Those (you hope!) got killed in the stomach.

            I was about to say that effects could be seen before anything reaches the stomach. For example, bacteria in the mouth affect tooth decay, and tooth decay is linked with heart disease (I'm not sure about the causality).

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            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @09:33PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @09:33PM (#295578)

              Just because some bacteria is good for your gut doesn't mean it's also good for your teeth.

              • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday January 27 2016, @09:56PM

                by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday January 27 2016, @09:56PM (#295588) Journal

                Every part of your body has different kinds of bacteria living on it. The microbiome is necessarily a complex subject

                It means that the introduction of certain bacteria could be considered an oral health treatment.

                On the subject of bacteria good for your gut being good for your teeth, I found this:

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2897872/ [nih.gov]

                Several studies suggest that consumption of products containing probiotic lactobacilli or bifidobacteria could reduce the number of mutans streptococci in saliva.32–40 The tendency toward a decreased number of mutans streptococci in the saliva seems to be independent of the product or strain used; however, such effect has not been observed in all studies.41 The discrepancies between results cannot be explained by only the use of different probiotic strains, as different results have also been obtained using the same strains.

                [...] The first studies of the use of probiotics for enhancing oral health were for the treatment of periodontal inflammation.43 Patients with various periodontal diseases, gingivitis, periodontitis, and pregnancy gingivitis, were locally treated with a culture supernatant of a L. acidophilus strain. Significant recovery was reported for almost every patient. There has been significant interest in using probiotics in treatment of periodontal disease recently, too. The probiotic strains used in these studies include L. reuteri strains, L. brevis (CD2), L. casei Shirota, L. salivarius WB21, and Bacillus subtilis. L. reuteri and L. brevis have improved gingival health, as measured by decreased gum bleeding.

                [...] The interest in oral probiotics has been growing during the last decades. Most of the studies have been conducted with probiotic strains originally suggested for gut health; however, it is important to realize that each of the suggested health benefits should be studied for each bacterial strain individually. Thus, a probiotic bacterium in the mouth is not necessarily an oral probiotic. Furthermore, it is quite possible that the same species are not optimal for all oral health purposes; e.g., different properties might be desired in respect to dental and gingival health.

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            • (Score: 2) by quixote on Friday January 29 2016, @11:18PM

              by quixote (4355) on Friday January 29 2016, @11:18PM (#296749)

              Interesting! And good news for those of us trying to improve our large intestine bacteria.

              It is still true, though, that the largest effect on those bacteria is the environment they're given. If your diet is meat+sugar, just as an extreme example, the occasional dose of probiotics won't help much. If you have one of those healthy Mediterranean diets they're always on about, you'd be very likely to have good intestinal flora without any added probiotics. (Although yoghurt is or can be part of that diet, so there's that.)

              Anyway, cool to learn something new with good links to sources. :D

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @09:41AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @09:41AM (#295859)

          I associated probiotics not with pills but with kombucha, sauerkraut/kimchi, and yogurt. You know, products with billions of bacteria floating around in them.

          Yup, thought the pills were just for emergencies

          Does eating Lactobacillus colonized foods help you? Maybe. But many yogurt products have a ton of added sugar.

          It is practically impossible to get good food off the shelf these days. The latest generation of food scientists and actuary run businesses have made sure of that. Most cultured food is ridiculously easy to make at home and isn't very time consuming, can fit into any lifestyle.

          Check out a book by Sandor Katz. The man is a genius.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @06:05PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @06:05PM (#295442)

        So I figured WTH I would give one of these probiotic diets a try.

        If you are interested in inclusion of more probiotics in your diet then I would recommend eating more yogurt. Other good sources of probiotics include raw apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, and pickles. No need to be "a goof" about this.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:14AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:14AM (#295803)

          Pickles from the supermarket aren't fermented, are they (I know you didn't say "from the supermarket")?

      • (Score: 2) by SubiculumHammer on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:15PM

        by SubiculumHammer (5191) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:15PM (#295469)

        Here is the idea. Gut bacteria of a certain type like certain types of food. Other types like other types of food. Some break down sugars, others fiber, and so on. If you eat poorly (McDonalds) then you are selecting bacteria of certain types. But there is potentially a feed back loop. There are nerve receptors in the gut that signal reward centers in the brain, and gut bacteria produce a number of known neurotransmitters in their life-cycles, which may influence activity in the brain in reward centers.

        A reasonable hypothesis then is that biotics in the gut would have a selective advantage if they could convince the host to eat foods that it prefers. If your diet tends to be laden with fats and sugars, then you are selecting a monoculture of fat and sugar digesting microbes, whom then produce neurotransmitters that activate reward centers for eating fats and sugars. However, those microbes that process vegetable fibers should have a similar interests in manipulating host eating behaviors to eat more vegetable fibers...but if you have a mcdonalds mnoculture of microbes the vegetable fiber microbes can not control the host effectively. On the other hand, if you have a balanced diet, or a balanced population of microbes, no single group can effectively manipulate your eating behaviors to their particular advantage.

        I can't find the review paper right now that this cam from....but it is a fascinating hypothesis.

    • (Score: 2) by Scruffy Beard 2 on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:40PM

      by Scruffy Beard 2 (6030) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:40PM (#295389)

      I have noticed all of the yogurt manufactures seem to trade-mark their particular strain of bacteria. But as you say, there is no reason to believe a particular strain is batter than any other.

      As a rule of thumb: trademarks can not describe the product. Otherwise competitors would be able to use it as a generic description.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by SubiculumHammer on Wednesday January 27 2016, @06:56PM

      by SubiculumHammer (5191) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @06:56PM (#295459)

      Want a powerful probiotic for very cheap?

      ! jar with seal.
      I head cabbage.
      1/4 cup salt
      Slice cabbage. Rub with salt until wilting. pack in jar, seal lid.
      Leave on counter for 3-14 days.
      Healthy. Delicious. More probiotics than you will get in a pill.

      Pro-Tip. Needs to stay submerged under brine or can develop mold. If mold develops either remove that portion or toss all contents. KEEP IT UNDER THE BRINE :)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:09PM (#295466)

      Which also has some impact on efficacy statistics seeing as researchers usually test with the real thing but retail customers mostly get placebos.

      Well I suspect many of those fish oil studies were with rancid oils. So no surprise the results are mixed. Can't be that healthy to consume rancid oils.
      http://www.nature.com/articles/srep07928 [nature.com]
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23863036 [nih.gov]
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/marketplace-fish-oil-omega-3-benefits-safety-1.3326587 [www.cbc.ca]

      I've busted capsules from some sources and they stink. And capsules from other sources actually smell pretty nice (if you're into fresh fish anyway).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @04:48PM (#295396)

    If they want to prove that it works, they have to do very serious and expensive tests to prove that and that it is safe. However, if they _don't_ do the tests, they can sell it without any proof of safety, as long as they only hint at health benefits. Good thing the FDA is protecting everyone!

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:11PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:11PM (#295412) Journal

      People want to eat healthy or pretend to eat healthy, and don't want a prescription to eat lunch. That's where the 'F' (and 'U'?) in Food and Drug Administration comes in.

      The FDA could crack down (harder) on non-food supplements with some simple changes to regulatory law, but there's a lot of money and homeopaths invested in keeping powdered shark fin, ginseng, weight loss caffeine powders, etc. on the market.

      At the very least fecal transplants [wikipedia.org] are regarded as a legitimate medical treatment.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @06:23PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @06:23PM (#295446)

      You are grossly misinformed if you think the FDA could be doing more. They were hamstrung by Congress in the 1990s, specifically by Orrin Hatch, with legislation written by the supplement industry. The law forbids regulation and specifically exempts them from even needing to prove it is safe, which was the standard before. The only concession the FDA got was that the industry cannot claim to cure anything without going through actual tests to show that they do, which is where that standard "This product does not treat, cure, etc." comes from. That law needs to be overturned first before the FDA can do anything more.

  • (Score: 2) by dltaylor on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:15PM

    by dltaylor (4693) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @05:15PM (#295414)

    We wouldn't want to teach children critical thinking skills, now, would we? If we didm that then it would be "#$%@! gummit interference in our rights to bring our children up as ignorant savages who will believe anything their parents (or advertisers) tell them!".

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:21PM (#295480)

    Its not that probiotics makes you skinnier. Its that probiotics (i.e. sauerkraut) makes veggies seem tastier and more appealing. Eating more veggies (fiber) leaves less room for calorie laden food.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @09:20PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @09:20PM (#295569)

      Its not that probiotics makes you skinnier. Its that probiotics (i.e. sauerkraut) makes veggies seem tastier and more appealing.

      Not in my experience.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @10:31PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27 2016, @10:31PM (#295606)

      Sense when is a hotdog a veggie? Or pastrami?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:19AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @06:19AM (#295805)

        (different AC) The cabbage that went into the sauerkraut was a vegetable.

  • (Score: 2) by tibman on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:22PM

    by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:22PM (#295481)

    Tried one of these things because i do find yogurt to be really helpful. First week was fine. Then i experienced what can only be described as a colon exorcism. Be careful with this stuff.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @01:18PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28 2016, @01:18PM (#295898)

      Sugar-free yogurt?

      Sucralose is a laxative.

      • (Score: 2) by tibman on Thursday January 28 2016, @02:24PM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 28 2016, @02:24PM (#295914)

        This wasn't a laxative situation. Wrenching pains followed by groan and unhappy bathroom action. Repeated that until it felt like my organs were trying to escape (i could hardly blame them). Threw up six times during the process too. Spent the next day drinking water and eating crackers and yogurt (which mostly stayed down). Colon exorcism is the best way to describe it. Laxative doesn't come close : P

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by goodie on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:39PM

    by goodie (1877) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @07:39PM (#295504) Journal

    Our kids' doctors (you don't get to pick, you get whoever is available here when your child is sick) vary on their recommendations. After antibiotics or illness, some recommend it, some say that they have no evidence to suggest that it helps but that the risk of adverse effects is very low so it doesn't hurt. Now there is more and more leaning toward paying more attention to our gut bacteria and the results seem to be edging that way too. So from that perspective, probiotics should be beneficial (should, not are).

    The problem is that not all probiotics are the same so a simple live bacteria count as some products claim is not sufficient. Again, this is something that time and time again we have known in the past. Eat diverse foods. In Europe that means different kinds of cheeses, yogurts, kefir etc. Those things contain probiotics and are good for you for a whole bunch of other reasons (fat, different tastes, textures, mold etc.). So have those things instead and keep your $20 for something else :)

    (FWIW I don't think that string cheese, velveeta, or Kraft Singles count as a European would not consider those cheeses to begin with ;) ).

  • (Score: 2) by gnuman on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:23PM

    by gnuman (5013) on Wednesday January 27 2016, @08:23PM (#295531)

    Bacteria that you stick in your intestine do not necessarily colonize it, because there tends to be limited room - it's kind of packed with bacteria down there. Having said that, it's not what bacteria you put down there that make you healthy, it's the bacteria that your diet sustains that live there that determine your health.

    So if you nuke your bacteria with antibiotics and only the more resistant strains survive, or you literally starve your bacteria by eating low fiber, low variety diet, then you can't just "fix it" by eating some bacteria and keep up with bad lifestyle. You have to feed said bacteria too, which means no antibiotics and daily dose of variety of fiber, not just Metamucil or some what husks.

    Probiotics works, but most likely marginally at best. But if you change your lifestyle/diet, you get your probiotics automatically. Apple a day keep the doctor away - probably much more effective at that than some probiotic yogurt.

    For car analogy - it's not the engine that powers the car, it's the fuel. Put down unsuitable fuel down the tank and you'll get terrible results no matter what the engine.