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Probiotics Don't Really Do Anything for Healthy People

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Put down the yogurt spoon and a cap on that bottle of kombucha: A review done by the University of Copenhagen suggests that probiotic foods and drinks may not do much of anything for healthy adults, according to research published in Genome Medicine.

The review collected seven trials of probiotic foods, and found that the research “demonstrates a lack of evidence for an impact of probiotics on fecal microbiota composition in healthy adults.” Translation: The effects of probiotics for healthy adults may be blown out of proportion. 

Oluf Pedersen, who led the research, told the Guardian, “While there is some evidence from previous reviews that probiotic interventions may benefit those with disease-associated imbalances of the gut microbiota, there is little evidence of an effect in healthy individuals.”

Probiotics foods contain microbes revered for balancing intestinal microbial balance. They’re made by bringing live bacteria or microorganisms, like yeast, into foods, which then metabolize sugars and give foods a sour taste. These microbes naturally occur in foods like kefir, miso soup, yogurt and sauerkraut, but increasing popularity has seen them added to other foods like teas that are probably more alcoholic than you realize (maybe that’s why you feel so good afterward?). 

While probiotic sales have spiked in recent years, Pederson also notes that in-depth clinical trials are needed to prove that probiotics help protect individuals from getting sick. That research isn’t out there, despite what your kombucha-drinking friend says.

The researchers note that the real impact of probiotics could be hidden by small sample sizes and a need for more focused research. “To explore the potential of probiotics to contribute to disease prevention in healthy people there is a major need for much larger, carefully designed and carefully conducted clinical trials,” Pedersen said.

“These should include ideal composition and dosage of known and newly developed probiotics combined with specified dietary advice, optimal trial duration and relevant monitoring of host health status.”

So, while there are benefits in certain situations, most people telling you about their great poops because of all the Kvass they drink just have naturally occurring, wonderful bowel movements. High five. 

But make sure you wash your hands first.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record, but has never met the fingernail lady. He’s written for Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, The Rumpus, and other digital wonderlands. Follow him @dlukenelson.