Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Probiotics Ring Up Big Business

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Probiotics Ring Up Big Business

Article excerpt

The helpful organisms that inhabit our digestive tract known as probiotics have dominated health headlines in recent years. It seems as though every week a new study claims to have found some new health benefits that probiotics can confer on their hosts.

Any wonder then that probiotics, or good bacteria -- those naturally found in food (for example, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, olives, miso soup and sourdough bread) and those in supplements, have become big business. After all, the public has embraced them with open arms -- and wallets. The global probiotics market grew to more than $27 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow by 7.2 percent through 2018.

"No one in the U.S. knew what probiotics were 20 years ago," said Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, who has been working in probiotic microbiology for 24 years and served as the founding president of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics in Sacramento, Calif. "It really wasn't until the last eight years or so that people started to become aware of them."

Probiotics owe some of their popularity to new theories about the negative consequences of living in an ultra-hygienic society. Modern lifestyles have become so clean and sanitized that, experts say, they've killed off the good microorganisms that inhabit our bodies along with the bad, which some speculate has led to a slew of new disorders (for example, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) that are common in industrialized societies but nonexistent in developing nations. The idea that we've become too clean for our own good has led some to believe probiotics can be a quick solution to restoring balance.

"When you look at populations that are exposed to more antibiotics and have better hygiene, you tend to see more autoimmune and allergic disorders," said Dr. Scott Gelman, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Morristown Medical Center.

Probiotics have carved out a huge stake for themselves in the supplement market and some make lots of health claims. One supplement claims its contents may "drastically improve your digestive health, balance your intestinal flora and improve your mood. …

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