211 – How to Read a Probiotic Label – My Interview with Natasha Trenev

How do you have confidence in your probiotic?

Natasha Trenev

Digestive Support

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We take probiotics because we have all gotten the message that probiotics are important for health. Probiotic supplements are everywhere. There are hundreds of supplements and a growing list of fortified foods claiming probiotics added. Probiotics are becoming commoditized. The good side of this is that consumers are becoming aware of the benefits of probiotics and have shown a great desire to consume probiotics in search of better health. There is great benefit to be had. The downside is that the market is now flooded with products and many, if not most, of the new products on the market are deficient in some way. Some, seriously deficient.

The increased interest in probiotics is certainly justified. In the last decade we have seen amazing advances in the clinical science of probiotics. We are now realizing that probiotics are much more than a digestive aid. Our bacteria are our partners in life and health. We need them as much as they need us. We now know that probiotics influence digestion, mood, immunity and in fact can influence nearly all of our biology. We have discussed some of these benefits  in previous interviews with Natasha.If you want to learn more, listen to our previous interviews with Natasha. To learn more about Natren products go to Natren.com

NPQAAThis interview is not about Natren as a company or even Natren products, except to say that Natren products exemplify the highest standards for probiotics. This interview is about the need for a common probiotic standard for all products in the marketplace. There is such a standard but it is largely ignored by the probiotic industry. This standard was adopted by the natural products industry back in the 1990’s when the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 was passed. This standard was the natural products industry promise to self-regulate. Natasha was a primary mover of this effort. Read the probiotic section of this report.

Fast forward 20 years and we now have explosive interest in probiotics. Many supplement companies have added probiotics to their supplement line. But the sad truth is that most companies do not follow the probiotic standards for product or labeling. Some may wonder if the standard is outdated. It is not. It is more necessary than ever.

BacteriaIn this interview Natasha will introduce us to the industry adopted probiotic standards. As you examine this issue you will gain the knowledge about how to judge and choose a probiotic. Natasha will explain how and why these standards are important and how consumers can make judgments based on those standards. If consumers don’t know what to look for then it is nearly impossible to make an informed choice. This is a challenge for all consumers of nutritional products. We have discussed this several times here at HealthQuestPodcast.com.  The problems with dietary supplements has been well documented and unfortunately good companies are harmed by subpar or even illegal products in the marketplace. Until the FDA has corralled the cheaters, consumers must become wary and educated. Good companies with great products are out there. You need to learn the difference. Good companies want to earn your trust because they do everything possible to created safe and effective products. Bad companies, or even careless companies don’t care about quality, effectiveness or even safety.

So what can you look for on a probiotic label based on the recommendation in the Quality And Safety Standards by NPQAA (Natural Products Quality Assurance Alliance, now defunct). Here’s the condensed version:

  1. Potency should be guaranteed until expiration date for each strain (species). Guarantees based on potency at the time of manufacture are not appropriate to assure consumers that the product is potent up to the expiration date.
  2. What is the minimum number of colony forming units (CFUs) per serving size? Measurements by weight are not a valid methods of counting bacteria.
  3. If there is more than one strain in a proprietary formula, each strain should be listed by potency in decreasing order.
  4. Proper storage conditions should be listed on the label. Proper storage conditions should be followed during all stages of the distribution chain. This is especially important for so-called shelf stable products. If potency is guaranteed based on proper storage and handling, then it is fair to ask, what is acceptable storage and handling? Is the product  testing at full potency under real world conditions at expiration date? Personally, as a consumer it is helpful to me to know how the product was handled before I received it and how should I as the consumer handle and store the product.
  5. Laboratory data of cell strains, potency and scientific documentation should be maintained by the manufacturer and made available upon request. This transparency is becoming more and more important in the marketplace of all nutritional supplements.
  6. Microorganisms should be identified by genus and strain.

Here are two of my own standards:
7. If there are claims for specific benefits, then what is the source of those claims? Here is a good test for any health benefit claim. When you hear or read about some benefit that sounds good or better than anything else or even equal to other products, then this is a fair question to ask: “How do you know your product has the stated benefits? Are there clinical studies showing this benefit? Do you have studies on your specific product? What is the evidence of confidence?
8. Look for third party, independent and neutral certifications. As in most things, not all certification are equal. Know who you trust.

Here is how a Natren label complies with the above identified standards. Labels like this reflect a commitment to the highest quality because of commitment to transparency and consumer trust.

Healthy Trinity

It is clear that many companies choose not to adhere to the voluntary standards. In reality most companies do not manufacturer their probiotics. Natasha’s mission is to elevate the standard for probiotics so that all companies are producing products and information that can be relied upon by consumers. Consistency in the probiotic industry would go a long way to creating consumer confidence.

What is clear for consumers is that Natren is one company that adheres to this standard. You have to decide if these issues are important to you. Like other nutrition movements that started with consumer grass roots (think Organic and NonGMO movements driven by consumer interest), Natasha envisions a time when consumers will become knowledgeable and demand higher quality products and reward companies that set the higher standard. Do not expect the FDA or FTC to set things straight. Not anytime soon it seems.

Natasha brought probiotics to the marketplace over 40 years ago. She was a champion for probiotics then and we all enjoy the benefits of probiotics in no small part to Natasha. Now she is again seeking to raise the standards by which all probiotics are judged. There are big stakes for consumers and the probiotic industry as a whole. Will the probiotic standard drop to the lowest common denominator? Or will high standards benefit all companies and consumers? This will be determined by consumers. As consumers become committed to probiotics will they demand better products? This is the hope. Natasha is once again a champion for probiotics. Read Natasha’s statement on the Probiotic Labeling Standards.

Now is a golden age of nutritional science and probiotics are no exception. Learn about the benefits of probiotic by following the science. Seek the highest quality products and see what they can do for you. Never assume all products are equal and continue your exploration until you are satisfied.

About Natasha Trenev
Probiotic pioneer Natasha Trenev has been committed to formulating and manufacturing probiotics of unparalleled quality for 30 years. Natren has willingly subjected itself to the most stringent international manufacturing quality control process, undergoing extensive testing from raw materials to finished probiotic products.  The Trenev Process® uses a unique process to substantially increase the probiotic activity, while eliminating the need for additives. To listen to my previous interviews with NatrenNatasha: CLICK HERE.




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