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December 2018

Probiotic Safety—No Guarantees

Author Affiliations
  • 1Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Somerville Hospital Primary Care, Somerville, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(12):1577-1578. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.5403

For centuries, people have consumed live bacteria in many foods, such as yogurt, cheese, kimchi, and sauerkraut. The mass-marketing of isolated live bacteria for their purported beneficial or “probiotic” properties, however, is a relatively recent phenomenon. The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” Yet to be sold as a probiotic supplement in the United States, a live microorganism does not require evidence of efficacy or even safety.

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