Sunday, September 12, 2010

Probiotics are the new viagra & the risks of overselling of probiotics

For crap's sake.  Really.  This is for crap's sake.  I have been sniffing around the web looking into stories about probiotics and, well, it is scary.  So much of the stuff out there is so incredibly awful.  There are so many sites out there offering probiotics for sale it reminds me of viagra.  But in a way this is way worse, because at least viagra sales only really offer to cure one kind of ailment.  Probiotics offer to cure everything under the sun.  And more.  And along with these offer's to cure everything come some seriously worrying practices.

Take for example this press release: New Website Offers Analysis On Top Probiotic Supplements.  This new website is "BestProbioticReviews.Com" and it portrays itself as some sort of neutral party.
BestProbioticReviews.com is a comprehensive yet easy-to-read guide offering product reviews on the top 3 probiotic supplements on the market today. Learn more about the best probiotic supplements and their review today.
They go on to report that
Based on the tests performed, the best probiotic supplement that has achieved the highest possible rating is Nutraelle DigestiveCare. The probiotic supplement received high marks because it was said to help consumers improve their overall digestive health, immune defense, and little to no side effects.
And follow this with
Of course, BestProbioticReviews.com wasn’t set out to provide just product information. We’ve included a special section outside of digestive health and showed our readers’ probiotics help in many ways other than just inside the gut. We discuss how probiotics in general can help (http://www.bestprobioticreviews.com/probiotics-IBS.html) probiotics IBS relief, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and respiratory health problems like asthma.
So - they first imply they are neutral.  Then they tell you about the small benefits of probiotics and then go on to discuss how probiotics can help with lots of other ailments.  And then they link out to sites for buying the three different kinds of probiotics they recommend.  The #1 recommended priobiotic is something called Nutraelle which apparently has all sorts of benefits, though the * tells us none are supported by the FDA.

Anyone want to bet that this web site is actually somehow affiliated with one or all of the places it recommends?  Interestingly, if you look at who is running this site it says it is:

Kelly Moore
Best Probiotic Reviews.com
815 1st Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104
(206) 624-3313

A little snooping around finds a press release from the same phone number for Alpranax - a claimed anti anxiety med.  The web site for this med has some striking similarities to the one for the probiotic promoted by Kelly Moore.

And alas, looking around the web for people selling probiotics, it really is starting to resemble those selling erectile disfunction treatments or various other therapies. Now mind you, I am not saying here that probiotics do not have potential.  They have been shown, here and there, to have positive benefits for a variety of ailments.  But I am going to repeat something here I have been posting every once in a while:
For the statement "X manipulations of microbes help treat X ailments in X people X of the time": X="some" NOT "all"
Or, in other words, the few studies that have been done on probiotics have shown that they can be effective in some people some of the time to treat some ailments.  But extending this concept to all probiotics help treat all people all of the time for (all or many) ailments is ridiculous. And alas, that is what some supporters of probiotics are doing.

For fun, here are some links discussing some issues with claims about probiotics

Here is some interesting reading relating to the potential for government regulation of claims about probiotics:

I hate to see more regulation by the government without justification.  But I am starting to wonder here if some more stringent regulation may be needed here.

Personally, I think probiotics have a lot of potential.  And more and more scientific studies are telling us where that potential is, and where it is not. But this risks getting lost in the midst of overselling, scams, and deceptive practices.  Here's hoping evidence becomes more a part of the culture (pun intended) here.  

5 comments:

  1. Nice post. If there's one thing that gets me riled up, it's people wo prey on desperate and sick patients with bogus claims. It inspired me to write a little bit more about what hurdles need to be overcome before probiotic therapies can be used to treat disease.

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  2. Probiotics are my research area, specifically Bifidobacteria, sites like those are horrible for scientists in this field! These unsubstantiated claims and hype creates a situation that will most likely discredit the concept of probiotics when people discover that they are not a miracle cure these companies bill them as. Probiotics have a lot of potential in many areas but the science is still catching up and until it does I would rather these companies not be allowed to make their outrageous claims.

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  3. Bogus health claims are happening all the time. I think we need to just get over it and focus on the facts, as you do seem to be doing since you support their benefit in the diet. Face it, the public does not know how to interpret science, I mean many scientists do not know either. Taking one study out of proportion is very typical when new things like this come out

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  4. probiotics cause lustful behavior in male pets and aggression in females.


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  5. Digestive System is the part of our inner body that processes food, that's why we must be able to consider it as a treasure. If our digestive system is not in good condition,it shows it in our outside body reaction. So we have to consider drinking vitamins such as probiotics to enhance our body inside and out.

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