Food and Behaviour Research

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19 Dec 2016 - Nutraingredients - Multi-strain probiotic could aid gut health – even if you’re healthy

Nathan Gray

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

This exploratory pilot study showed that a probiotic supplement might be able to improve gut and digestive symptoms in healthy volunteers - although these findings remain purely observational, as there was no placebo control group.

As the researchers themselves note, confirmation of any causal effect still requires confirmation in a randomised controlled trial.

Meanwhile, however, research into probiotics increasingly supports links between gut and brain function - particularly in relation to anxiety and depression - as first demonstrated some years ago in animal studies.

Thus recent reviews and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials have reported that probiotic supplements can reduce perceived stress, anxiety and depression in trials involving healthy human volunteers, and in some studies, also in clinically diagnosed patients. See:   

A daily dose of multispecies probiotic could help improve intestinal health even in healthy people, according to new observational data.

The study – backed by Dutch probiotic firm Winclove and Swiss pharma company Mepha Schweiz – investigated the effects of multispecies probiotic formulation Winclove 500 (on the market in Switzerland as Bactosan pro Fos) on gut health and quality of life in a group of 40 healthy people.

Led by Fritz Grossenbacher from Mediscope in Switzerland, the team also noted that this initial observational study was set up to evaluate the feasibility of conducting a larger randomised controlled trial to investigate the effect of the multi-strain probiotic in healthy people.

Writing in Advances in Microbiology, the team behind the research reveal that a six week supplementation with the Winclove 500 multi-strain probiotic influenced markers of gut health and quality of life (QoL), including the relief of gastrointestinal symptoms –including gastric pain, epigastric fullness (bloating) and flatulence – in a positive way.

“Our observational study shows that gastrointestinal symptoms are quite common in otherwise healthy adults,” wrote the Swiss-Dutch team – who noted that this is to be expected given that participants for the study were recruited after visiting a therapist with non-specific GI-complaints.

Grossenbacher and colleagues revealed that through the six week study total gastrointestinal (GI) symptom score was significantly reduced from an average of 10 at baseline to six (p < 0.05). Furthermore, after the probiotic intervention the percentage of participants whom were ‘fully resolved’ of particular symptoms – including GI pain, bloating, and flatulence – significantly increased from baseline.

“This observational study demonstrates it is feasible to measure influences of probiotics in an otherwise healthy target group, but this should be confirmed in a randomized, placebo-controlled study,” wrote the team, who added that the concept of probiotic interventions in a generally healthy population “deserves further evaluation.”

Gut health for the healthy

The team noted that while probiotics have been the focus of a vast body of research in the past two decades, and many people consume probiotics daily, the beneficial effect on healthy people has been less explored than the effect on symptoms of chronic gastrointestinal diseases.

However, healthy people who do not suffer from chronic GI disorders, can still regularly experience periods of intestinal discomfort, the team said – noting that common symptoms include flatulence, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

“Although these symptoms usually do not require immediate medical attention, they can have a profound impact on quality of life,” wrote Winclove in a recent press release relating to the study.