So-called ‘good bacteria’ that are contained in many popular probiotic drinks are “quite useless,” according to a group of scientists in Israel. Until now, probiotics have been seen as healthy and good for the gut, but the findings of the team from the Weizmann Institute of Science show otherwise. Their study is among the most detailed analyses to date of what happens when we consume probiotics. For their research, the team created a cocktail containing 11 common good bacteria and gave it to 25 healthy volunteers. Samples were then taken from each of the volunteer’s stomachs, as well as their small and large intestines. The scientists were looking to see where the bacteria successfully colonised and whether any changes in the activity of the gut were evident. Publishing their findings in the journal Cell, the scientists said that in half of cases the good bacteria literally went in one end and out the other, without providing any benefits whatsoever. In the rest, they hung around for a bit before being overwhelmed by the bacteria that commonly frequents our bodies. Speaking about the research, Dr Eran Elinav said people should not expect off-the-shelf products to provide them with definitive health benefits. He suggested that the future of probiotics lies in creating bacteria cocktails that are tailored to the specific needs of individuals. “And in that sense just buying probiotics at the supermarket without any tailoring, without any adjustment to the host, at least in part of the population, is quite useless,” he said.
When it comes to food allergies, peanut allergies are one of the most deadly. But hope may be on the horizon for people who are allergic to peanuts after a new study has revealed how a particular oral treatment can be effective for up to four years after it is administered. For the study, children were given a probiotic with a peanut protein every day for 18 months. One month later, the children were tested to see whether they could tolerate peanuts without displaying any allergic symptoms – 80% could. Then, after four years, the children were tested again. This time 70% were still able to eat peanuts without showing any allergic symptoms. Lead researcher Prof Mimi Tang, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, said: "The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don't have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanuts”. She added that this is the first time a peanut allergy treatment has proved effective for this long. The Australian research team now wants to determine whether the treatment has improved the children’s quality of life. More than 250 million people worldwide are thought to have peanut allergies – a figure that has more than trebled in the last 20 years alone.