Functional Foods with Added Probiotics

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This article was made possible due to an unrestricted educational grant from Activia (Danone Canada). Written in collaboration with Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic BScPh RPh NCMP, AEProbio

You’ve learned all about probiotics in our last few posts. Probiotics are generally defined as live microbes (extremely small living things that can only be seen with a microscope) which, when taken in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the person taking them. In plain language, probiotics are “good microbes.” These friendly microbes help us digest food, maintain health and fight disease. 

You may think probiotics are only available in supplement form but some of the most common probiotics are offered in foods including fortified yogurts, drinks, and even formulas for children! However, these should be taken with the same metaphorical grain of salt as probiotic supplements, as not all functional foods with probiotics or “live cultures” have evidence to support their benefits. There is also no such thing as need a “daily probiotic for improved gut health.” 

It’s important to note that if you are generally a healthy person (physically active, eat well, aren’t under a lot of stress) you likely do not need a probiotic. Not everyone needs a probiotic to stay healthy. It’s important that you talk with your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian FIRST before taking one, to ensure you have a proper diagnosis, or know why you are taking a probiotic. Together, you can select an appropriate probiotic for you. 

The issue of choosing the right probiotic for the right reasons has been addressed in the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products. The Clinical Guide is an evidence-based decision-making tool for clinicians, which is independently prepared and updated every year. This project has been going on since 2008, and has been recognized as the only reliable resource by international healthcare associations providing health care professionals and consumers with a list of probiotic formulations that have been specifically clinically tested – so they can select the appropriate product, dose, and formulation for a specific indication. Alliance for Education on Probiotics (AEProbio) supports publishing and distribution of this Guide.  

Within the Guide, the recommendations are tied to brand names, making it easier for you to select the recommended product when purchasing in stores. Probiotic strain names and doses are also listed. Favorable published clinical evidence for the particular strain(s) presented in each product are given and include numerous gastrointestinal conditions.  

The handy acronym chart makes it easy for you to find the functional food that has clinical evidence for your specific condition: 

AADAntibiotic associated diarrhea – prevention  
CConstipation 
CIDCommon infectious disease – Community acquired  
CMPACow Milk Protein Allergy  
HPHelicobacter pylori – Adjunct to standard eradication therapy 
IBSIrritable Bowel Syndrome
IDInfectious diarrhea 

There, you will also be able to compare the functional foods based on the level of evidence, as it is graded with a I, II, or III, with level I being the highest level: 

  • Level I: 
    • Evidence obtained from at least one properly designed randomize trial  
  • Level II:  
    • Evidence obtained from well-designed controlled trials without randomization 
    • Evidence obtained from well-designed cohort or case-control analytic studies, preferably from more than one centre or research group 
    • Evidence obtained from multiple time series with or without intervention. Dramatic results in uncontrolled trials might also be regarded as this type of evidence.  
  • Level III:  
    • Opinions of respected authorities, based on clinical experience, descriptive studies, or reports of expert committees.  

To make things even EASIER, the guide also includes symbols to indicate whether or not the product is gluten free and requires refrigeration.  

So, for example – if you are looking for a functional food with added probiotics that may help with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, you can see that there are two functional foods that have level I clinical evidence to support it.  

  • Activia  
    • Probiotic Strain: B. (animalis) lactis CNCM 1-2494  
    • No. of doses/day: 1-3 servings 
  • Goodbelly Probiotic Juice Drinks 
    • Probiotic Strain: L. plantarum 299v 
    • No. of doses/day: 1 serving 

Be sure to check out the full guide for more functional food brands available for different indications.  

Online at Probioticchart.ca 

App Store or Google Play: PROBIOTIC GUIDE  

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