Probiotics Definition and their health benefits

Probiotics Definition and their health benefits

Probiotics are live bacteria that, when consumed properly, have a beneficial effect on human health. To be classified as a probiotic, a product must contain a certain amount of live bacteria (CFU) with scientifically proven beneficial properties. Certain probiotic strains have shown benefits in a variety of health areas, including benefits for the immune system, digestive tract, women’s health, and oral health.

Probiotics definition

The World Health Organization has determined that probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, are beneficial to health. Many foods and supplements contain live bacteria, but only bacterial strains with scientifically proven health benefits can be called probiotics. 

Fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut contain live bacteria and have beneficial health effects, but are not considered probiotics because their benefits to humans have not been confirmed by scientific research and it has not been established how much to consume for beneficial effects on health.

Probiotic bacteria must be alive…

Probiotic foods contain millions to billions of live bacteria. However, like any living organism, bacteria die naturally. Thus, the number of live bacteria in a probiotic product is reduced from the time of its production to the date of purchase. The number of live bacteria is measured in colony forming units (CFU).

… and be present in the right amount

As stated above, in order to classify a product as a probiotic, it is required to prove its benefits to human health through scientific studies. The specific health impact of each probiotic is related to the amount of live bacteria used to document its effectiveness. Since health benefits are only provided when an appropriate amount of live bacteria (CFU) is present, this amount must be observed when taking the product.

It is obvious that: 

  • over time, the number of bacteria naturally decreases; 
  • for each probiotic, you need to consume a certain amount of bacteria (CFU)

This means that the number of bacteria (CFU) at the end of the shelf life of a probiotic product matters more than the CFU during production.

Genus, species, strain – do they matter? 

Yes. 

Identification of probiotics is carried out at three levels: genus, species and strain. The strain plays an important role – it is at this level that probiotics are studied, and not at the level of genera and species.

For example, according to the results of scientific research, the effect of the presented by the company Chr. The Hansen strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG ® – hereinafter referred to as the brand name LGG ®, ​​is primarily associated with digestive and immune system health while the effect of the strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, GR-1 ®   is associated, first of all, with the health of the genitourinary system of women. Both of these probiotics are classified asLactobacillus rhamnosus, however, the effect of the particular strain (LGG ® or GR-1 ® ) is confirmed by research and is associated with health benefits.

Read: Antibiotics: side effects to know

Probiotics may provide health benefits

For decades, scientific research has demonstrated the benefits of probiotics for various areas of human health. Listed below are examples of the health benefits of probiotic strains.

Digestive system 

Several scientific studies show that nutritional supplements containing Chr. Hansen’s probiotic strain of Bifidobacterium, BB-12 ® – hereinafter referred to as the trade name BB-12 ®, has been associated with regular bowel movements in adults who have previously had problems in this regard, as well as reducing tearfulness and children’s anxiety. 

Weakened immune system

Research suggests that taking probiotics as a supplement can have a beneficial effect on children’s immune systems. Presented by Chr. Hansen strains BB-12 ® and LGG ® help to reduce the incidence of respiratory illnesses, including respiratory illnesses lasting more than 3 days, as well as significantly reduce the duration of respiratory discomfort 7 and reduce the incidence of ear complications. 

Genitourinary Health

Consumption of probiotic strains has also been associated with female urinary tract support. For example, in scientific studies, a connection was established by the company Chr. Hansen UREX ™ Probiotic Blend (containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus , GR- 1® and Lactobacillus reuteri, RC- 14® strains) with urinary tract and vaginal health benefits.

Oral hygiene 

An association has been established between children taking probiotic products containing Chr. Hansen strains LGG ®, ​​with improved oral health.

Main conclusions

When choosing a probiotic product, it is important to consider the following. 

  • The benefits of probiotics are the specific characteristics of a particular strain and the amount of CFU according to scientific data.
  • Benefits do not apply to other strains and health areas.

Consult with a healthcare professional to learn more about probiotics and their health benefits.

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