Do Your Customers Know the Benefits of Probiotics?

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By JeffreyThurber

Probiotics is one of the fastest growing functional foods worldwide.According to Frost & Sullivan, the US probiotics market is predicted to triple in value by the year 2010 rising to a $394 million industry. Most market experts agree that a further boost to the industry of probiotics could be provided by instilling consumer confidence through sufficient scientific research and an adequate awareness of the health benefits of probiotics.”Increasing consumer awareness and education was the first real step toward removing the U.S. societal stigma associated with talking about intestinal and digestive health,” points outTerri Rexroat, global product manager, lactic cultures, Cargill Texturizing Solutions, Minneapolis.Obviously, probiotics manufacturers should consider educating their customers about the usefulness of probiotics for health. Informed consumer awareness will lead to increase in the sale of probiotics.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics was defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2001 as “live microorganisms administered in adequate amounts which confer a beneficial health effect on the host”. Probiotics are mostly small single-celled organisms present in your gastro-intestinal system. The word probiotics comes from the two Latin words pro and biota, which combined mean “for life”. It is estimated that a 100 trillion microorganisms inhabit a normal, healthy digestive system. These represent more than 500 different species.

The Role of Probiotics in Health

Interest in probiotic supplements is on the rise. Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies have established that probiotics therapy can:

  • Help treat symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbances such as traveler’s diarrhea, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Help to delay the development of allergies in children.
  • Help to maintain urogential health, especially in women. Probiotic treatment helps to restore the balance of microflora and may help in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and urinary tract infection.
  • Enhance the immune function.
  • Help to support liver health.
  • Help maintain gastrointestinal microflora necessary for proper absorption of nutrients.

Different strains, species and genera of bacteria may have different effects. These should be recognized when considering the health effects of any probiotics.

How Probiotics Work in the Body

Micro-organisms present in the gastrointestinal tract are both good and bad and have the potential to harm the body or to impart health benefit. Most microorganisms live in the lower small intestine and the colon where conditions are perfect for their survival and reproduction.The role of probiotics in the large intestine (colon) is to:

  1. Help complete the digestion process of food that has not been digested in the small intestine. This is usually fiber (prebiotics) which is resistant to the action of enzymes in the small intestine. It can also include lactose in lactose intolerant people.
  2. Help to regulate the absorption or excretion of water and minerals through the colonic lining and the elimination food wastes or feces.
  3. Both lactobacilli and bifidobacteria help to lower the pH levels of the intestinal contents. This creates a less desirable environment for harmful bacteria to survive.
  4. Lactobacilli and Bifidobactreria act upon fibers producing nutrients, called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), along with B vitamins and immune factors, which are necessary to maintain general health.
  5. Help produce nutrients that regulate the levels of cholesterol and glucose in the body.

Providing a Rational Basis for Choosing a Probiotic Supplement.

Probiotics are generally considered safe as they are already present in the digestive system.Probiotics are available as dietary supplements in the form of capsules, tablets and powders. They can also be combined with other nutrients in health products. There are innumerable probiotic products to choose from. However, Frost & Sullivan report that, “consumers have no rational basis for their choice of product”.

Probiotics supplement manufacturers should:

  • Provide as much scientific basis as possible for the use of probiotics on the label and in enclosing literature. The label should show the levels, strains or, species of the bacteria. Probiotics supplement manufacturers should supply instructions for storage on the label informing the customer that proper storage will keep the probiotics alive and efficacious.
  • Provide third party validation of the levels of the bacteria and their viability.This would help customers to have more confidence in your product.
  • Increase consumer awareness of the need and role of probiotics in health. Most people do not get enough probiotics through their natural diet. In addition, antibiotics, illness or a diet that is high in sugars and processed foods can disturb the body’s balance of good bacteria over harmful ones

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