Is probiotics a scam?

Is probiotics a scam?

Summary: Some of the claims made by probiotics advocates remind me of the patent medicine craze of the 19th century.


Activia yogurt packagingNo.

But the big health fad of 2008 does have scams attached to it, and some of the claims made by advocates are unproven.

Probiotics is a global movement which teaches that your health will be better if you maintain a healthy collection of bacteria in your digestive tract.

Simple and good, especially if you've just run a course of antibiotics.

But it's not a cure-all, and it doesn't just mean the way to health is to drink yogurt at your desk, although that's what brands like Activia are pushing.

Which is why some people have called out the lawyers.

The science is simple. Some bacteria can kill you, but you need others to digest food. Using good bacteria against bad appeals to anyone who has seen a Saturday morning cartoon.

The best-known old line pusher of this message is a Japanese outfit, Yakult. They have, since 1970, owned a Japanese baseball team, the Swallows.

Former Atlanta slugger Bob Horner played for them in 1987. Most Atlantans back then thought the name referred to beer.  (So apparently did Horner.) runs a blog which sings the probiotics song, where you'll learn it is sold in various forms (including protein bars) and is used, supposedly, for various things.

But some of the claims made by probiotics advocates remind me of the patent medicine craze of the 19th century. (Which isn't all bad. The craze brought us Coca-Cola, which means it built Atlanta.)

Personally I like yogurt drinks at my desk. They make me feel full, I tolerate them better than milk, I like the flavor.

But it's about wellness, not illness. Before I send a bacteria out after disease I want to know its name, precisely what it does and know its results are proven.

We're a long way from that for most probiotics claims.

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  • Is probiotics a scam?

    Probiotics are not a scam but you do have to know what you are looking for. I was taking a digestive enzyme which had several probiotics in it including acidophilus. It worked fine for me. Will I recommend them to everyone? No way. One, I'm not a doctor. Two, some people could have a reverse reaction to it.

    I think what Activia did was trying to say their biciphilous or whatever they called it was a 'one size fits all'. Except that wasn't the case. They had many complaints about their product not working as advertised. I took the 2 week challenge and it kept my digestive system regular. Another friend said it gave her cramps and got her money back.

    I'm not a fan of regular yogurt but I can drink the heck out of some smoothies that have frozen yogurt in it (thanks tcby!).
    Loverock Davidson
    • Sounds like chiropractic

      There is some truth in what the advocates say, but keep your eyes wide open and brain fully engaged.

      Same could be said of any number of treatments.
      John L. Ries
      • Chiropractic works

        But you are right. I have never had a chiropractor who didn't have some additional "twist" to what they were doing which was off-putting.

        One prayed over me. One was a gadget freak. My current one lectures on holistic wellness.

        I keep an eye on them. I am quite certain the new one isn't practicing genocide like Karadic.
        • My wife used to work for a chiropractor

          And I long ago came to the conclusion that there is therapeutic value in having one's back cracked occasionally, but I still suspect that many of the claims are exaggerated (the typical chiropractor's office feels too much like Dr. Feelgood's Medicine Show to make me comfortable).

          Always good to keep eyes open and brain engaged.
          John L. Ries
    • A clue about yogurt

      Those who are lactose intolerant can still tolerate yogurt because it includes the enzymes which you need to digest it.
      • That is good to know

        I'm not intolerant but a friend of mine is. When I do eat yogurt from a cup (oh how i love my smoothies) I like to mix in some granola. That is the best.
        Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Is probiotics a scam?

    My personal experience with taking probiotics has been great. Rather than getting just a couple strains from yogurt, I take a multi-strain probiotic from Nutri-Health. Its keeps my digestive system in sync and I dont have to worry about eating yogurt everyday to get the beneficial bacteria. Try it, the results will speak for themselves.
    • But I like yogurt

      Especially the drinkable fruity kind. My wife prefers the vanilla, in a cup. With the yogurt cream on top. Mmmmmm....yogurt cream.
    • Hate to pop your bubble

      But the bacteria your digestive tract needs are crawling all over the food you are eating now. You don't need any special dose. We are eyebrow thick in bacteria everywhere. Save your money.
  • RE: Is probiotics a scam?

    MY son used to suffer from the worst eczema, and none of the doctors creams helped. Then a friend recomended 'For your child's health' by OptiBac Probiotics. The transformation has been simply amazing. Although im not sure i would trust those yogurt drinks - just packed with sugar arent they!