Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Grocery store lessons: Probiotic tea

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Catching up on my magazine reading recently I came across this probiotic tea. While more and more research is coming out to support the use of probiotics to promote healthy gut flora, which is important to overall health, I was still pretty skeptical seeing this. After all, most probiotics prefer a cool temperature and how much would you actually get by drinking a cup of tea?

I checked out the GanedenBC30 (the brand name for the bacillus coagulans used in the tea) website. Apparently their probiotics are much hardier than most strains of probiotic. They’re able to survive extreme heat, extreme cold, and the acidic environment of the stomach.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have the resources to conduct research to determine if this claim is true. The only research I can find (shout out to Vanessa for her assistance!) was financially supported by Ganden. Also, the research didn’t demonstrate the ability of the bacteria to survive extreme conditions. One study looked at the benefit of bacillus coagulans in mice with c. difficile infection. It found that there was improvement in stool consistency. However, we know that mice are not humans and results found in them may not be translatable to us. In addition, two of the authors of the paper were employees of Ganden. Another study looked at the effect of GanedenBC30 on inflammation in human blood samples. Once again, the results were positive. And, once again, the study was funded by Ganden. The  third study actually looked at the effect of GanedenBC30 on gas-related symptoms in humans. Despite stating that there was a benefit to consuming the probiotic, there was no statistically significant difference demonstrated between the placebo group and the probiotic group on many variables. Once again, this study was funded by Ganden.

What to take from all this? Ganden owns the right to this particular strain of probiotic. Thus, any research conducted using it must be approved by them. Considering this, how likely do you think it is that we’ll see any research disputing the benefits of GanedenBC30? Especially, considering that negative findings are rarely reported anyhow. Despite this,  Medline Plus states that there is “insufficient evidence” to support any of the claims attributed to bacillus coagulans. Even if we take Ganden’s word for it and accept that bacillus coagulans is beneficial to our health there are still a lot of additional assumptions we have to make regarding its consumption in tea.  We have to assume that the bacteria can indeed survive on in the tea on the store shelf for a prolonged period. We have to assume that the bacteria can indeed survive steeping in boiling water and passing through stomach acid. We also have to assume that enough bacteria will survive this process to actually be of benefit when they reach the intestines. 

I don’t know about you, but that’s too many assumptions for me. Personally, I’ll stick to my regular tea and get my probiotics from fermented foods and the occasional capsule.