Are probiotics good for you: Current state of probiotic research in 2023

Probiotic Dan

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Probiotic research has gained momentum in the last few decadesPhoto byCDConUnsplash

It seems as if research on probiotics has taken forever to make any tangible progress. As such, some years back, a good number of people felt that probiotics were just another “scam” idea to make money from gullible consumers.

Unsurprisingly, until now it is still hard to get a unanimous verdict on the importance of probiotics in overall health matters.

However, from the 1990s researchers have been swarming in on probiotics. Each year there are hundreds of scientific research studies seeking to get to the bottom of things.

Most probiotic-related research studies seek to test claims about the benefits of probiotic bacteria on human health.

In 2023, probiotic research is picking up steam again. These live microorganisms, often referred to as "good bacteria," are known to promote a healthy gut environment and support various aspects of human health including digestion, immunity, skin health, and mental wellbeing. Therefore, this resurgence is mainly due to their potential health benefits.

So Where Are We in 2023?

To know where we are, we will rely on a recent journal-published comprehensive review on the “Current status of probiotic and related health benefits”. The research is compiled by Tridip Das and colleagues.

In this publication, a group of researchers from the Departments of Biological Sciences and Microbiology conduct a comprehensive review of probiotic research. Their main aim in the course of this review is to shed light on the various bioactivities and health benefits associated with these beneficial microorganisms.

Current agreements on Probiotic influence on the Gut’s epithelial barrier (leaky gut)

According to this publication, one of the essential bioactivities of probiotics is their role in enhancing the gut's epithelial barrier. When this barrier is compromised, it can lead to inflammatory responses and various intestinal disorders.

However, probiotics, particularly Lactobacilli, have shown to enhance the expression of genes involved in close junction signaling, thereby improving the intestinal barrier's integrity (Hummel et al., 2012).

Probiotics Influence on Immune System

Another significant aspect of probiotic research in 2023 is their immunomodulatory activity. Probiotic microorganisms interact with various immune cells, such as epithelial cells, dendritic cells, monocytes, macrophages, and lymphocytes.

These interactions help regulate the immune response and contribute to overall immune health (Lebeer et al., 2010). Understanding these immunomodulatory properties is crucial for developing potential therapies for immune-related disorders.

Probiotics Influence on Gastric Ulcers Research

Gastric ulcers are a common gastrointestinal ailment affecting millions of people worldwide. Conventional anti-ulcer medications have limitations, leading researchers to explore alternative treatments.

According to the latest research, probiotics have shown promise in the treatment of gastric ulcers due to their anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties (Yang et al., 2021). Studies suggest that certain probiotics, like yeast S. cerevisiae AKP1, can modify inflammatory markers, thus preventing and treating gastric ulcers (Banik et al., 2019).

Probiotics on Food Allergies

Food allergies are immune system reactions triggered by harmless particles, leading to hypersensitivity responses. Current research indicates that probiotics, such as Lactobacillus GG and L. rhamnosus GG, have been found to alleviate the symptoms of food allergies by stabilizing the immune system and improving gut integrity (Eslami et al., 2020). These findings offer hope for individuals suffering from allergic disorders and pave the way for potential allergy treatments.

Probiotics on Obesity

Obesity has become a global health concern, and probiotics have emerged as potential aids in obesity management. According to recent findings, Probiotics can influence the expression of lipogenic and lipolytic genes, leading to reduced fat accumulation and improved metabolism (Song et al., 2020).

In clinical trials, probiotic supplementation has been associated with lower body weight, reduced blood glucose, and insulin levels (Narmaki et al., 2022). Moreover, certain probiotic strains, like B. longum and B. animalis, have shown anti-obesity effects by modulating gut microbiota and bile acids composition (Alard et al., 2021).

Probiotics and Diabetes Management

Diabetes prevention is another area of probiotic research. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic degenerative disease characterized by sustained hyperglycemia. Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, have shown promise in managing DM2 (Type-2 diabetes). They may modulate gut microbiota, reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance (Vlachou et al., 2020).

The presence of a healthy gut microbiome has been linked to a reduced incidence of liver diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (Duseja et al., 2019). Probiotic supplementation has been found to improve liver function, lower liver enzymes, and ameliorate hepatic steatosis in NAFLD patients (Malaguarnera et al., 2012).

Probiotics and Cancer

Cancer prevention is a significant area of interest in probiotic research. Probiotics have demonstrated the ability to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and induce cancer cell death in vitro and in vivo (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2012).

They have been used in combination therapy with radiation and chemotherapy for cancer treatment (Sivan et al., 2015). The immunomodulatory effects of probiotics have been observed to enhance tumor control and stimulate anti-tumor T cell responses (Sivan et al., 2015).

Colon Cancer

In the specific context of colon cancer, probiotics have shown promise in preventing the development of aberrant crypts (AC), which can progress to polyps and tumors. Probiotic supplementation in animal studies has been associated with a reduction in AC and the inhibition of colon carcinogenesis (Abdelali et al., 1995) (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2012).

Probiotics have been suggested to bind to mutagenic compounds, deactivate carcinogens, and contribute to the deactivation of colonic mutagens (Challa et al., 1997).

Takeaway

These are just some points from this research. Much more is covered in this paper, so feel free to check it out.

While probiotic research has made significant strides, there is still much to explore. The scientific community continues to investigate the diverse potential health benefits of probiotics. Still, more research is needed to understand the optimal dosage, delivery methods, and potential side effects of probiotic supplementation.

As probiotic research advances, it holds promise for improving human health and well-being. However, it is essential to approach probiotic consumption with caution and seek advice from healthcare professionals before starting any probiotic regimen.

The future of probiotics looks promising, and with further scientific investigations, these beneficial microorganisms may pave the way for innovative and effective therapeutic interventions in various health conditions.

List of Research References

Abdelali et al., 1995. Effect of dairy products on initiation of precursor lesions of colon cancer in rats. Nutrition and Cancer (1995), pp. 121-132, 10.1080/01635589509514400

Alard et al., 2021. Multiple selection criteria for probiotic strains with high potential for obesity management. Nutrients, 13 (3) (2021), p. 713

Banik et al., 2019. Amelioration of cold-induced gastric injury by a yeast probiotic isolated from traditional fermented foods. Journal of Functional Foods, 59 (2019), pp. 164-173.

Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2012. Immunoregulatory mechanisms underlying the prevention of colitis-associated colorectal cancer by probiotic bacteria. PloS One, 7 (4) (2012), p. e34676

Challa et al., 1997. Bifidobacterium longum and lactulose suppress azoxymethane-induced colonic aberrant crypt foci in rats. Carcinogenesis, 18 (3) (1997), pp. 517-521.

Eslami et al., 2020. Probiotics function and modulation of the immune system in allergic diseases. Allergologia et Immunopathologia (2020)

Duseja et al., 2019. High potency multistrain probiotic improves liver histology in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): A randomised, double-blind, proof of concept study. BMJ Open Gastroenterology, 6 (1) (2019), Article e000315

Hummel et al., 2012. Differential targeting of the E-cadherin/β-catenin complex by Gram-positive probiotic lactobacilli improves epithelial barrier function. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 78 (4) (2012), pp. 1140-1147

Lebeer et al., 2010. Host interactions of probiotic bacterial surface molecules: Comparison with commensals and pathogens. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 8 (3) (2010), pp. 171-184.

Malaguarnera et al., 2012. Bifidobacterium longum with fructo-oligosaccharides in patients with non alcoholic steatohepatitis. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 57 (2) (2012), pp. 545-553

Narmaki et al., 2022. The combined effects of probiotics and restricted calorie diet on the anthropometric indices, eating behavior, and hormone levels of obese women with food addiction: A randomized clinical trial. Nutritional Neuroscience, 25 (5) (2022), pp. 963-975.

Sivan et al., 2015. Commensal Bifidobacterium promotes antitumor immunity and facilitates anti–PD-L1 efficacy. Science, 350 (6264) (2015), pp. 1084-1089

Song et al., 2020. Effect of probiotics on obesity-related markers per enterotype: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. EPMA Journal, 11 (1) (2020), pp. 31-51.

Vlachou et al., 2020. Effects of probiotics on diabetic nephropathy: A systematic review. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 15 (3) (2020), pp. 234-242.

Yang et al., 2021. Potential of probiotics for use as functional foods in patients with non-infectious gastric ulcer. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 111 (2021), pp. 463-474.

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