– Myth –
You Need More Than 1 Billion Probiotic CFUs To Reap The Benefits

100 million, 1 billion, 5 billion, 20 billion, 200 billion… We’ve all read recommendations for the “ideal” number of probiotic cells that should be consumed on a daily basis for optimal benefits. But is there an ideal number of cells, or as they are called in the biz, CFUs—Colony Forming Units? We asked George Paraskevakos, probiotic expert and Executive Director of the International Probiotics Association (IPA), for his thoughts on the almighty CFU controversy.

Q: Is there an ideal number of CFU that consumers should be aiming to consume on a daily basis?

A: The truth is in the science. We have seen published articles and clinical trials with probiotics that vary in range of total CFU’s (Colony Forming Units). Bigger isn’t necessarily always better. Albeit I do feel there is use for larger CFU applications and we have seen it in published studies, but I can say the same for the lower CFU counts as well.

Q: Is there a target number of CFU for specific claims, like digestive or immune?

A: Some government agencies have published guidelines – like in Canada or Italy. We have also seen specified target numbers of minimums like 10 million CFU or 1 billion CFU to confer health benefits. Ultimately, it is what can be scientifically justified on a strain- by- strain basis and supported by peer reviewed clinical trials. So it can’t be said that probiotics in general promote digestive wellness or immune support but rather individual strains may support structure function claims using the minimum quantities from the published literature.

Q: Can any probiotic support a claim so long as the product contains a certain number of CFU per daily dose?

A: Specific claims need to be substantiated with clinical trials that document the strains and number of CFU in the final formula. Probiotic characteristics and health benefits are strain specific and CFU count specific.

Q: Do multi-strain formulations provide more benefits than single- strain formulations?

A: This is highly dependent on the types of strains in the final blend and the clinical support for claims on that particular multi-strain formulation. Simply adding multiple strains to a product does not ensure that a consumer will see greater benefit. Whether a finished probiotic product has one strain or many, claims can only be supported by studies on that individual strain or particular blend. Additionally, it can’t be assumed that study results on individual strains can be seen when that same strain is included in a multi-strain formulation; especially if the strains are not used at the same level as in the published clinical trials.

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