There are only a few categories of consumer goods that exhibit such rapid-fire growth and activity as probiotics. This supplement category is also distinguished by how captivating it is: “microscopic bugs” living in our guts that keep us healthy! Microbes that have their own jobs and communities! It is a fascinating realm unlike any other category of dietary supplements.
The research world is excited and new discoveries are made with increasing frequency – new strains identified, developed, and shown in studies to perform specific tasks.
New studies show what else probiotics can do other than help promote gastric wellness and overall digestive health.
Probiotics and Winter Support
One study sought to determine how a probiotic strain (Bifidobaceterium animalis subsp. Lactis B1-04) influences the microbiota residing in nasal passages in healthy people inoculated with the common cold. While this strain was found to have no measurable influence, the researchers did show that the overall microbiota content influenced how the participants’ bodies worked to quell the typical symptoms. The researchers write, “In an experimental rhinovirus challenge model, Bl-04 modulated the inflammatory response and viral load in nasal washes, but did not have an impact on symptom severity scores.”
This study identifies how the various bacteria that thrive in the nasal passages may influence respiratory function and immunity by reacting to viral load.
And some new research validates previous studies. For example, a new study supported the concept that healthy immunity helps maintain beneficial flora in the gut as well as enables successful prevention of harm from bad bacteria. In this study, the researchers found that higher amounts of a pro-inflammatory protein NLRP1 (which senses when infection is present and leads to production of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-18) was correlated to lower levels of beneficial bacteria and anti-inflammatory biochemicals in the gut.
The researchers used mice to examine this relationship, focusing on inflammatory bowel conditions when NLRP1 levels were low. They found that there was less inflammation when NLRP1 levels were low. Too much of the protein creates an abundance of IL-18 that directs cells to defend against threat of colonization of bad bacteria but also do not differentiate – and kill off the good bacteria as well.
If you are losing your good bacteria as sacrifices to kill off the bad, supplementing with probiotics will help to keep your beneficial bacteria in healthy amounts. One of the benefits of a high population of probiotics is that they produce butyrate, which helps modulate inflammation – an action also shown and validated in this study.
Fighting Resistant Bacteria
Bacteria evolve, gaining new defense skills. This is why winter ailment vaccines differ each year, to keep up with the morphology.
In a new study, MIT researchers have demonstrated that a combination of antibiotics and probiotics eradicated two strains of drug-resistant bacteria that often affect wounds. This was accomplished by encapsulating the proprietary probiotic compound of three Lactobacillus strains in an alginate shell that prevents the antibiotic from killing them. The lactobacillus strains were shown in previous research to kill MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
The researchers delivered the encapsulated probiotics along with an antibiotic called tobramycin, which they chose among other tested antibiotics because it effectively kills Pseudomonas aeruginosa, another strain commonly found in wound infections. When MRSA and Pseudomonas aeruginosa growing in a lab dish were exposed to the combination of encapsulated Lactobacilli and tobramycin, all of the pathogenic bacteria were killed.
We normally don’t think of our moods until a low one settles down on us, and probiotics can help lift spirits and brighten demeanor. One new study suggests a multi-strain probiotic containing three strains of Lactobacilli (L. fermentum LF16, L. rhamnosus LR06, L. plantarum LP01) and one Bifidobacterium (B. longum 04), might be a viable combination that supports a sustainable healthy mood. The study looked at supplementing with probiotics for six weeks affected both psychological well-being (e.g., feelings of depression, anxiety or cognitive reactivity to sad mood) and quality of sleep in a cohort of healthy young women. At the end of the study, the researchers found that probiotic supplementation was linked with improvements in mood/depression, sleep quality, fatigue, as well as feelings of anger.
Another double blind clinical trial compared the effect of supplementation with a probiotic combination (L. helveticus and B. longum) and a prebiotic (galactooligosaccharide) on 81 people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or placebo for eight weeks. At the study’s end, the researchers found that probiotic supplementation resulted in a significant decrease in Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score (17.39 down to 9.1) compared to the placebo (18.18 down to15.55) and prebiotic (19.72 down to14.14).
Probiotics for Metabolic Support
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a cluster of factors that creates higher risk for age-related and lifestyle-related diseases. Some factors include belly fat, high LDL cholesterol and concurrent low HDL (good) cholesterol. In one study, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 in a probiotic milk consumed for 90 days exerted beneficial effects on inflammation, nitric oxide metabolites, and antioxidant status in individuals with and without MetS.
Further, the researchers noted that those with Metabolic Syndrome had increases in adiponectin (a protein that regulates blood sugar) and nitric oxide metabolites (NOx) levels.
A new in vitro study suggests that the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856 may influence cholesterol levels. The strain was found to significantly reduce cholesterol levels of widely consumed cholesterol-rich foods egg yolks, and butter by 39.79%, and 49.51%, respectively. The strain also produced butyric and propionic acids, which act to inhibit the liver’s production of cholesterol.
Prebiotics in the News
Research teams are also ramping up clinical investigations into how prebiotics influence a variety of physiological functions in specific populations. For example, one study aimed to explore the potential appetite-control benefits of the prebiotic inulin in children who are overweight and obese. A total of 42 children aged 7 to 12 consumed 8 grams of oligofructose-enriched inulin per day or a placebo for 16 weeks. Appetite was measured fasting satiety hormone concentrations, among other methods.
Children in the prebiotic group had significantly higher feelings of fullness and lower prospective food consumption after 16 weeks than those in the placebo group. The researchers also found that taking prebiotics also significantly reduced caloric intake at breakfast in 11- to 12-year-olds compared to placebo, though not for 7- to 10-year-olds. In the prebiotic group, fasting levels of the satiety hormones ghrelin and adiponectin also increased significantly; this suggests that supplementing with prebiotic oligofructose-enriched inulin can help regulate appetite in children.
New in the Aisles
Probiotics are so good for you, you can’t really over-indulge. And this is a fact that food and beverage manufacturers are joyfully embracing. You can get your probiotics, such as L. paracasei, in a tasty quickie shot form – and now you can get probiotics in ice cream! A new premium ice cream brand called Culture Republick™ is a line of light ice creams that, according to a press release from its maker, Unilever, “aims to support culture in everything it does.” Each pint offers 3 billion live active cultures and no more than 500 calories. Flavors include Milk & Honey, Turmeric Chai and Cinnamon, Pistachio & Caramel and four others. (The brand donates 10% of sales to the Unilever Foundation, and each flavor container features art by an emerging artist.
And, food giant Kellogg’s launched a cereal line called Happy Inside, which serves up 1 billion CFUs plus prebiotics (chicory root) as well as fiber. The cereal, available in three flavors, is aimed squarely at the consumer who is seeking digestive support.
Probiotics and prebiotics are quickly becoming necessary in the minds of millions for health support. And the best news is that you don’t have to swallow yet more pills to obtain them; the health product industry will continue to launch innovative and tasty supplements, foods and beverages containing viable strains to support your lifestyle.