Foolishness about food and its health effects can run not only into the negative — the sky will fall if you even nibble on meat, butter, or eggs! — but also into extremes about its purported benefits. Which is why, as recent news reports indicate, skepticism and care need to be exercised about probiotics, so-called “super foods,” and, yes, once again, the supposed virtues of organic produce.
Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, tackled the myths that surround probiotics in a recent piece for the New York Times’, evidence-based “Upshot” column.
He reported that one fundamental problem in assessing the many benefits attributed to these food nostrums rests in their proliferation and confusion as to what exactly the are: Must probiotics be live cultures of organisms that are supposed to be safe and beneficial to normal activities that occur in the gut? Or can they be dietary supplements and non-living materials that can be delivered in powders and capsules? What exactly is in probiotics and how safe are they? That’s murky — and risky, he says, noting that these materials have caused illnesses and deaths.