Dietary Guidelines Should Focus on Getting More Probiotics

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In order for Americans to really change their diets and improve their health, foods that are available in grocery stores—and the information people receive about these foods—must change. That’s why I found it hopeful when I read that Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, writing on behalf of the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics, commented that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should consider live microbes and probiotics as part of a healthy American diet.

Dr. Sanders is a principal in the Centennial, Colorado–based consulting firm Dairy & Food Technologies. She recently drew attention to the fact that fermented foods like yogurt deliver live microbes, which include probiotics. Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, cheese, fermented milk, and fermented vegetables like kim chi and sauerkraut.

Of course, you’ve heard me share the incredible benefits of probiotics, from digestive and cardiovascular support to vital immune health, just for starters. Dr. Sanders notes, “Because of this prevalence of persuasive science, we believe that the committee should study the following question: What is the relationship between foods with live and active cultures and probiotics on long-term health maintenance and reduced disease risk?”

I really like her next comment: “Consumers would further benefit if these foods were described as a source of potentially useful bacteria, and not only as a valuable source of calcium and other nutrients.”

At this point in time, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization defines probiotic as a live microorganism, which when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit on the host. (Italics mine due to the fact that research points to larger health benefits realized with higher dosages of probiotics in many cases.)

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee noted that the gut microbiota affects health, but they failed to make any recommendations on consumption of probiotics or fermented food.

I sincerely hope that the 15 people who were selected last May for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appreciate the incredible value of probiotics in our diets and provide more substance to their guidelines in this area. These guidelines serve as the foundation for our national nutrition programs, standards, and education. The committee also makes recommendations to help the general population and specific groups to choose healthy diets. More info on the dietary guidelines and public comments can be found at health.gov/dietaryguidelines.

I’m excited to see what 2015 will bring!