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Claim check: Does Culturelle work for tummy troubles?

It's supposed to promote digestion and maintain regularity

Consumer Reports magazine: November 2012

The claim. “You’ll ♥ the Culturelle advantage,” says the maker of Culturelle, a supplement containing probiotic (“good”) bacteria. One capsule daily is supposed to promote digestion, maintain regularity, support your immune system, and help you return to optimal health. An ad claims that Culturelle’s probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), has been clinically shown to improve digestive health and strengthen the immune system. Unlike a lot of probiotics, a Culturelle spokeswoman notes, LGG survives past the stomach and into the intestines, where it balances out  “bad” bacteria. Each capsule is guaranteed to contain 10 billion cells of LGG.

The check. Because probiotics are considered a food and dietary supplement, not a medicine, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t verify their claims. But many strains of probiotics have been studied extensively for their effect on irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, and diarrhea. We reviewed LGG studies, looking for evidence to support or refute Culturelle’s claims.

Bottom line. Some people will ♥ Culturelle. No studies have been very large, but several hold promise for travelers, people taking antibiotics, or kids with diarrhea:

  •  A 1997 study of 245 adults who took LGG or placebo to prevent diarrhea when traveling to various countries showed that those who took LGG cut diarrhea risk almost in half.
  • A 1999 study of LGG’s ability to prevent or lessen antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children found that 26 percent who took placebo had diarrhea, compared with 8 percent who took LGG.
  • A 2000 study involving 287 youngsters from 10 countries found that LGG reduced infectious diarrhea by a day compared with placebo.

Research has also shown that LGG reaches the intestines and that 10 billion cells is an effective dose. A 2010 Consumer Reports survey is worth noting, too. Of respondents who reported using probiotics, 35 percent said that those they used  “helped a lot.”

More research may help clarify the proper dosage and strains for different conditions. Meanwhile, probiotics such as Culturelle aren't useful to everyone, says probiotic expert Yehuda Ringel, M.D., a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “If you are a healthy person and keep a healthy way of life and healthy diet, you don’t need probiotics to help you get healthier.”

More about 'functional foods'

Read our June 2012 report.


   

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