The usefulness of “probiotic” food supplements has been called into question this week, as the results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium maintain that the products that claim to aid digestion and maintain health might not even contain the ingredients listed on the label.

All probiotic supplements claim to be functional foods, containing live bacteria from the lactobacillus family, helpful microbes that aid digestion. Some of the supplements might also be dried or in a pill form claiming to boost health.

In a study of 55 different probiotic products from Europe however, investigators showed that only 11 actually contained all of the helpful organisms listed on the packet. As many as nine of the products didn’t actually contain any of the functional ingredients listed. 

Thirty of the products tested were dried, and of these, 11 did not actually contain any live ingredients. None of the rest achieved the 100m bacteria sufficient to actually have any beneficial effect.

“A few products even invented ingredient names, to sound more attractive commercially,” said Robin Temmerman, a graduate researcher at the university, to Reuters Health. One example is the product that claimed to contain “bifidus acidophilus” – a bug which does not actually exist.

Temmerman said that the study has proved that governments must introduce more stringent controls over the labelling of the products, which are currently subject to little or no regulatory oversight or guidelines.

Earlier this week, published a feature on functional foods, exclusive to full members, to read the feature, click here.

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