From: pautrey on

Probiotic growth precedes science
By Christina Hernandez

For The Inquirer

Ali Shapiro of Center City battled irritable bowel syndrome for years
before finding a remedy that relieved her bloating and other symptoms.
Three years ago, besides removing gluten from her diet, Shapiro began
taking daily probiotic supplements - laced with helpful bacteria - and
found quick relief. "I have no bloating," said Shapiro, 31. "I don't
get the pain that I used to get."

After having asthma as a child, carrying an inhaler through college,
and keeping allergy medication at her desk at work, she found
probiotics helped alleviate those issues, as well. "I don't have
allergies anymore," Shapiro said.

Now a health coach working toward her master's in organizational
dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania, Shapiro recommends
probiotics to her clients. "If you have a fragile system, you need to
heal it," she said, "and probiotics are a great way to do that."

Across the country, people such as Shapiro are turning to probiotic
products, which have exploded in the health food and supplement
markets. From 1994 to 2003, Americans' spending on probiotic
supplements nearly tripled. And in the year ending Feb. 20, sales of
items labeled as probiotics were up 6.8 percent to $1.24 billion just
in supermarkets, according to the Nielsen Co.

Experts say there's good evidence that probiotics can help people with
irritable bowel, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections.

Emerging research suggests that probiotics may ease symptoms of
allergies (both food and respiratory) and boost the immune system.

But as often happens in the United States, big sales precede the
science. Claims that probiotics can help with blood pressure and heart
disease are so far unproven in people, experts said.

And like other supplements on store shelves, consumers need to know
that probiotics are barely regulated. The government doesn't verify
that consumers will get what the label says they are buying.

"The science around probiotics is clearly developing," said Bob
Roberts, associate professor of food science at Pennsylvania State
University, who says he has no affiliation with any probiotics
companies. "Is it proven beyond the shadow of a doubt for all
organisms? No. But there's a developing body of work that shows these
organisms are effective in certain areas."

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