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Lactobacillus preparations: buyers beware

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In 1989, 22 brands of acidophilus on sale in Britain and the US were analysed, but only 3 were found to measure up to what they claimed

In 1989, 22 brands of acidophilus on sale in Britain and the US were analysed, but only 3 were found to measure up to what they claimed. Despite the adverse publicity, when Professor Howard Slater of University College, Cardiff tested the UK acidophilus market three years later, the situation had not improved: again, only two products reached the required specification. In another study in the US, Drs Hughes and Hillier reported that they found "a serious lack of quality control" in commercial non prescription acidophilus products (Obstet Gynecol, 1990; 75: 244-248).

Dr Nigel Plummer, a UK expert on lactic acid bacteria, acknowledges that ordinary consumers are at a disadvantage. "They have no way of checking what they are actually buying. Ultimately, product quality is dependent on the manufacturer having a detailed knowledge of the system with which he dealing (for example, shelf life data at different temperatures, or at different moisture levels), and then informing the distribution network and subsequently the consumer."Dr Plummer's recommends the following checklist for choosing a reliable product:

Ensure it contains human L acidophilus and Bifidobacteria (another naturally occurring "friendly'" gut organism found in the large intestine).

It should be able to tolerate stomach acid and bile.

It should be capable of colonising human epithelial tissue.

It should contain 1 billion viable cells per daily dose.

It should have an expiry date.

It should be refrigerated when you buy it.

It should be accompanied by full technical support and information service.

It should have independent product quality validation data.


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