Other Talks in the Series: Microbiota

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Hello, my name is Dr. Gregor Reid. I'm the Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Surgery, Western University in Canada, and a scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario.
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What are probiotics? The definition is "live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." And this is from 2001 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. And this definition has stood the test of time and is used worldwide. The photograph on the right shows a colored version of bacteria that you would expect to see, for example, in the intestine, many different types of organisms. So what are not probiotics? Well, they're not in you unless you have taken them. In other words, you could have a blue bacteria and it could be a certain species of bacteria. But unless you've taken that organism and added it into your diet or consumed it, then it doesn't make it probiotic, even if it's the same species. It's not sauerkraut, sauerkraut is a fermented food and it has many bacteria in it, it's beneficial for your health. But it's not defined as probiotic because you can't really say that every single batch made by every single producer is the same. So in order for it to be a probiotic, you'd have to define a specific sauerkraut and then use the same formulation each time. It's not fecal transplant. Fecal transplant is the taking off someone's stool and using those organisms, essentially as they are, and transplanting them into someone else. And therefore, you can't define all the organisms in that fecal transplant. And you can't be consistent between each batch and therefore it's not officially defined as a probiotic, even although it does provide benefits and it's conferring microorganisms for health. It's not multiple strains never tested on humans. So some companies unfortunately produce multiple strains that they've never shown that all the strains are needed, and they've never tested one versus the other and looking for additive effects. So just because they're multiple strains, you have to check to see whether they have been tested in humans.