Many people consume probiotic products as part of their everyday diet, and we’re regularly being told about their benefits. However, a new study published by the University of Copenhagen may be about to change our views on these products. The findings show that actually, they may not have any benefits for healthy adults after all. It may be time to rethink our diets…


Not so many health benefits after all?

Probiotic products including yoghurts, drinks and bars have often claimed to provide a number of health benefits, such as boosting our digestive health, boosting our immunity and helping to prevent obesity. The products contain live microbial food ingredients, which are known to many of us as ‘friendly bacteria’, often found in foods such as yoghurt and miso. They are becoming increasingly popular due to celebrity endorsements and are often featured on blogs and social media sites meaning they’re a common part of many weekly shops.

This new research however has found that probiotic products have little effect on healthy individuals, although “there is some evidence from previous reviews that probiotic interventions may benefit those with disease-associated imbalances of the gut microbiota”, according to Oluf Pedersen, who headed the research project. The research argues that probiotics may not be as effective at preventing disease and illness as we might think, calling for more in-depth research to be carried out into their effectiveness.


‘No convincing evidence’

The study was carried out using samples from a range of people aged 19 to 88. The junior author of the study, Nadja Buus Kristensen, explained that: “according to our systematic review, no convincing evidence exists for consistent effects of examined probiotics on faecal microbiota composition in healthy adults, despite probiotic products being consumed to a large extent by the general population.” Whilst more research needs to be undertaken, for now it seems that some of the marketing used to promote these products could be misleading.


Other ways to boost your digestive health and immunity

If you’re feeling a bit disheartened by these findings, you’ll be glad to know that there are many other ways to boost your immunity and help your digestion. Many of these include consuming foods which are readily available, meaning you won’t have to consume supplementary products such as probiotics. Some easy things which you could do include:

  • Eat a diet rich in fibre, in foods such as oats, wholegrain cereals etc.
  • Leave the skin on your potatoes
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and be sure to have them with every meal
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat foods containing vitamins and minerals, a multivitamin can also help ensure you get your daily intake
  • Garlic is a great antioxidant – add it to dishes as a good way to help your immune system

Maintaining a balanced diet overall is a key way to not only help your digestion but to keep cold and viruses at bay. If you’re concerned about your digestive health, you should book an appointment with your GP to eliminate any possible causes. For a list of foods and ways to improve your digestive health, the NHS Choices website has some great ideas for healthy, delicious dishes which are packed with fibre.