Probiotics are one of the most over-hyped health products of recent years.
Until now doctors have been sceptical about these yoghurts, drinks and pills - partly because the evidence for them hasn't been convincing, but also because it's not clear what the different strains of these 'good' bacteria actually do. However, new research shows that not only are probiotics useful, but they could even act as effective medicines - and help you control your weight.
Probiotics are the 'good' strains of gut bacteria which play an important role in digestive health and the immune system. The problem, as many a nutritionist likes to point out, is that these good bacteria can be killed off by poor diet and antibiotics.
Now, scientists have been able to pinpoint precisely what effects particular types of bacteria have. For instance, they have found that some influence the ways fats and nutrients are absorbed. More importantly, this new understanding is helping them develop ways to adapt probiotics more precisely. It seems they could actually replace certain drugs such as antibiotics and even provide new treatments for other conditions such as asthma - and without side effects.
Last month, for instance, researchers from University College Cork reported that two probiotics specially prepared in their lab were as effective as the best available antibiotics in fighting off various infections in animals.Lead scientist Dr Colin Hill explains that each works in different ways. 'We've got one that protects mice from an infection called listeriosis that causes vomiting and nausea and can affect pregnant women. The probiotic works by producing a type of small molecule known as a peptide that specifically kills the listeria bacteria.'
Source - Daily Mail