Probiotics only benefit those with a bad diet

19 March 2017

While probiotics promise to have a positive effect on our bodies, new research has found this is only the case if your diet is particularly bad.

In fact, experts claim that those who eat healthily could actually be putting themselves at harm with an extra dose of ‘good bacteria’.

Researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales gave probiotics to two groups of rats; one following a poor diet (consisting of cookies, cakes and meat pies) while the other ate healthy foods. The rodents eating a typical Western-style diet, consisting of processed meats and high saturated fats, showed improvement in cognitive brain function and metabolism.

The rats with a normal or healthy diet had barely any changes, however some were struck with negative side effects such as impaired recognition memory.

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“We were surprised to find that, in the rats we were feeding a healthy diet, the probiotics actually resulted in some memory impairment with regards to object recognition,” lead author Professor Margaret Morris, from the University of New South Wales, explained.

She noted that despite the experiment focusing on rats, it gives a clear message that probiotics require more caution and second opinions from professionals before people consume them. Professor Morris also admitted more research is needed into the area as it’s difficult to determine whether the extra addition of good bacteria is definitely good or bad, as she explained: “The challenge is accurately determining which beneficial microbes are absent.”

She and PhD student Jess Beilharz are currently looking into how Western-style eating habits impact gut bacteria and brain function, predicting that probiotics are actually beneficial when it comes to improving memory and behavioural changes linked to diets full of high sugar and saturated fat.

But, as Professor Morris stressed, “if you're already eating healthily, they may not be that beneficial."

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