And some preliminary evidence does indicate that consuming probiotics may aid in the treatment of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, bladder cancer, urinary and intestinal tract infections, and even eczema.
To explore whether the promises are backed up by hard science, Gordon and his associates set out to conduct a high-tech investigation involving mice and human twins.
In the first instance, germ-free mice were carefully raised so that the environment of their guts mimicked that of humans. In effect, the mouse guts played host solely to 15 human gut microbes, all of which had been genetically sequenced.
Next, seven sets of healthy, young-adult female twins were recruited.
Over four months, the "humanized" mice and the twins consumed a commercially available probiotic-cultured yogurt. The researchers analyzed bacterial gut composition and behavior patterns before, during and after probiotic consumption.
The result: The bacterial species in the yogurt did not take up fresh residence in either the human or animal consumers. Thus, the bacterial environment found in the guts of both mouse and man was roughly the same before and after yogurt consumption.
However, a subsequent urine analysis among the "humanized" mice unearthed "significant changes" in the activity of enzymes involved in metabolism, the team said.
The most prominent changes, the team further noted, had to do with the breakdown of carbohydrates.
But they concluded that more research is needed before anything definitive can be said about the effect of probiotic consumption on human health.
Still, they noted a silver lining. "We have successfully developed a way to test the effects of these microbes on the gut," noted Gordon. "And that means that we can now use this testing pipeline as we move f
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