Sadly at Cytoplan we are shortly drawing to a close our use of the word “Probiotic” in all relevant product packaging plus online and print materials (etc.). So soon, when you are looking for our range of supplements that we have sold for decades and designed to support gut health you will be confronted instead with the term “Live Native Bacteria”.
A little confused?
A little confused? So you may be, along with the tens of thousands of people in the UK who each month search online or in-stores for the familiarly termed probiotic powders and capsules. At Cytoplan we are merely falling in step with all the other reputable supplement companies and other businesses that provide probiotic products.
This has all come about as the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) are now actively stopping relevant companies from using the word “probiotic” in relation to relevant products – period! As in no debate or discussion.
Still a little confused?! Simply put we can no longer say something as innocuous as “this is a probiotic supplement containing nine strains of live probiotic”; from now on we will change this sentence to “a supplement containing nine live and native bacterial strains” (or similar words). So no use of the word “probiotic”.
An Implied Health Benefit?
And the basic ‘gist’ of why this innocuous word will cease to exist in this context is that the use of the word “probiotic” apparently implies an automatic heath benefit for the product being described. So in this scenario the consumer sees a product mentioned as containing probiotic and apparently thinks this suggests positive health connotations.
The most high profile consumer changes in relation to this matter have occurred with the companies who sell drinks such as yoghurt based drinks that include probiotic strains – and sell lots of them each week in the UK through all the major supermarkets. You won’t see the word probiotics mentioned in the UK (and Europe) for the packaging and promotion of their products any longer.
Now at Cytoplan and similar specialist supplement companies, we might have said in the above example ‘fair enough’, these drinks don’t contain a great ‘volume’ of probiotic strains anyway and hence are unlikely to exert any positive gut health influence. We are naturally disappointed however that we can’t use the word at all in describing supplements high in specific probiotic bacteria.
EFSA Permitted Health Claims
Are you still (even now) a little confused at the ‘termination’ of this word (probiotic)? Well you may be as the starting point of this whole issue is with EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) who decide what ‘permitted claims’ can be made for any vitamin, mineral or natural nutrient sold in Europe. And there are currently no permitted health claims for probiotics or probiotic strains (such as the well know Acidophilus, or Lactobacilli, or Bifidobacterium) – NO permitted claims, not one.
And this seems a little puzzling purely in the context of this debate – if there are no permitted health claims for probiotic strains (for example), how can the use of the word “probiotic” imply to the public that there is a health benefit? Sounds a bit ‘Catch 22’ really to us.
We have indeed written previously on the very dim view EFSA seems to hold all probiotic based products in. There seems little or no possibility of a single permitted health claim being authorised in the foreseeable future. And this is despite an enormous and ongoing volume of eminent research being regularly published suggesting many health benefits for probiotic strain supplementation and humans.
Probiotics and Clostridium difficile-associated Diarrhoea
An excellent example of this positive research was the recent Cochrane Collaboration study on whether taking probiotic supplements could reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea when taking probiotics. An introduction by the Cochrane Collaboration on the study comments:
“Taking antibiotics? Probiotics can cut your risk of diarrhoea – Key message: moderate quality evidence suggests that probiotics are both safe and effective for preventing Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea.
It’s no surprise that a new Cochrane review made headline news on the BBC’s health pages last week and was featured in many other health news reports too, as its focus was the use of probiotics to prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea (CDAD) in people taking antibiotics. These medicines can upset the normal healthy balance of organisms in the gut and open the door to infection, often by C.difficile bacteria. It’s a very common side-effect and one you may well have experienced.” (web link to the full article below).
‘Good’ & ‘Bad’ Bacteria
The research in to the potential benefits of probiotic supplementation are generally focussed on gut health. Put very simply our tummy contains millions of live bacteria (or probiotics), of many differing strains which exist in a balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. We need the ‘bad’ bacteria, but in a sensible ratio to the ‘good’; however illness, injury, diet, medication (such as antibiotics), lifestyle factors (such as stress), pre-existing medical conditions – these can all affect this delicate balance and ‘bad’ bacteria can start to colonise the gut at the expense of the ‘good’ bacteria.
This scenario can lead to a range of symptoms of varying severity which unless addressed can become chronic. This gut imbalance can also make us more susceptible to pathogens (or virus). Introducing a range of good probiotic strains by supplementation (and diet) can potentially help redress the balance of the good bacteria in the gut.
Good gut health is not just important for our digestion, it can affect many other aspects of our overall health. And research into probiotics has included many such diverse health matters including sleep quality, allergies and cognitive aspects such as mood.
Indeed since evolutionary times humans have naturally eaten foods rich in probiotic content. However in recent decades dramatic changes to our diets, particularly in the western world, have meant we eat little of these probiotic ‘ripe’, ‘mature’ or ‘fermented’ foods.
Education & Research
At Cytoplan we set great store in seeking to educate and inform people to help them make their own decisions about what products to take in relation to their health. This wholesale ‘banning’ of the word probiotic doesn’t seem to us to be a step in the right direction for people seeking such information to make such decisions.
In terms of research the word “probiotic” is fortunately still being used and a simple search online (for example simply Googling “probiotic research”) will provide anyone with a wealth of information into previous or recent research studies.
In closing – just to make it clear that at Cytoplan our supplements previously described as “probiotic supplements” are not coming to an end – far from it – its simply that the word “probiotic” will no longer be used in their descriptions or product names.
So the products remain unchanged and our advice does too: a) Select a supplement with multiple strains as the more complementary strains present, the greater the beneficial sphere of activity; and b) Select a supplement suited to your age as the strains most needed (by the gut) when younger vary to those when we get older, as certain strains are less easily regenerated as we age.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
Cochrane Summaries: The use of probiotics to prevent C. difficile diarrhea associated with antibiotic use
Cytoplan Blog: Colds & Flu – Help avoid antibiotic associated diarrhoea and digestive disorder
Cytoplan Blog: Antibiotics, Diarrhoea & Probiotics
Cytoplan Blog: Candida Albicans and Sugar Cravings