Buyer Beware: Pre- and Probiotics

March 2, 2020

The active bacteria cultures living in the intestines may not sound appealing, but they have a large impact on daily life and digestive health. Meghan Busky, master’s student of nutrition sciences, spoke at The University of Alabama’s OLLI program on behalf of the College of Community Health Sciences’ Mini Medical School.

Busky partnered with her mentor Suzanne Henson to dispel some of the misinformation surrounding prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are the plant fibers that feed the bacteria in the gut and stimulate new growth. Probiotics are a supplementary way of adding in new live organisms into the system.

Prebiotics can be found in complex carbohydrates like asparagus and yams. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi, said Busky. Both can be found in supplement form.

“I am always the first to say food first,” Henson said. “We want to get the majority of our nutrients from our food.”

One of the main reasons to be cautious when relying on supplements for micronutrients is lack of regulation, said Busky. Independent labs have found lead and sawdust in some of the supplements on the market, and not just probiotic and prebiotics.

“These capsules are not regulated by the FDA,” Busky said. “You have to be careful what you are actually getting in your supplement.”

Busky and Henson agreed that researching the brand making the supplement beforehand can save the consumer problems down the line. They recommend using independent companies such as LabDoor and ConsumerLab before shopping for a supplement.

Henson and Busky lectured as part of the Mini Medical School program, a collaboration of OLLI and the College. Mini Medical School provides an opportunity for adults and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures offer important information about issues and advances in medicine and research.