Probiotics must be tested in humans and shown to have health benefits.
Here are some tips to help you find a credible probiotic product, from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics
Clinically proven: Do your homework
Make certain that product claims of health benefits are based on sound research done on the particular probiotic product. The product should contain the specific strain(s) of bacteria at the same levels as used in published research. The studies should be performed in humans and published in peer-reviewed, reputable journals.
Check product websites to see study results. Your pharmacist or healthcare provider should be able to help you sort through the scientific language.
Claims: What do they mean?
Probiotics are usually available as dietary supplements or food ingredients. However, they are not permitted to claim that they can cure, treat or prevent diseases. They can only make claims related to health. All product claims, no matter how generic, should be factual and supported by evidence, but not all manufacturers have this clinical evidence.
Get your doctor’s OK
Consult a physician before administering probiotics to newborns or infants, or to people with compromised immune systems or other major underlying illnesses. Read “Warnings” and “Other Information” on the product package and be aware of any expected symptoms or side effects. Probiotic foods should be safe for the generally healthy population to consume.
More Information on Probiotic Products
The product you choose should offer resources to find more information, including a website or consumer hotline.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all products labeled as “probiotics” have clinically validated strains or levels in them. Although the scientific definition of probiotics stipulates that products be clinically evaluated, some manufacturers don’t follow this standard.
Source: Adapted from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics “Ps and Qs of Probiotics: A Consumer Guide for Making Smart Choices,” accessed December 20, 2013.