Probiotics are nothing but cultures of live naturally-occurring or genetically-engineered microorganisms that provide several benefits when consumed by human beings including improved digestive functions, boost of the immune function, helps maintaining the normal micro flora in the body, manufactures several vitamins and other substances required by the body, improving growth and development, etc. This article by Katherine Leitzell (November 2007) describe the health benefits of probiotics, when added to certain foods. The readers and potentially consumers should be aware of the fact that not all microorganisms can cause disease, and only a few of them present in nature are pathogenic. The writer clearly uses the terms “harmless microorganisms” and “friendly micro-organism”, to help the reader distinguish between probiotics (which provide several benefits) and dangerous microorganisms (that are capable of causing disease). The writer has also clearly demonstrated the mechanism by which these microorganisms would be providing their benefits. The article is nothing but a review of several clinical trials conducted using probiotics. They demonstrate the benefits the subjects experienced when administered probiotics in the study. Some credible references indicated by the article include studies published in the British Medical Journal, Specialists from the University of Michigan (namely Gary Huffnagle and William Chey), Tufts University, etc.
1. What sort of language does the writer use? Do the words imply sensationalism or conclusive findings? Phrases such as `startling revelation` or `now we know` or `the study proved` are clues to whether the report is sensational one.
The writer uses simple and easy to understand language. She has especially demystified the medical language and has provided lucid language so that the general public finds the article attractive, palatable and comprehensive. Some of the examples mentioned by the writer include terms such as “infection-causing microbes’ (for pathogenic), “gut bacteria” (for commensals), “non-digestible carbohydrates” (for oligofructose), etc. Wherever the author has found it difficult to use simple terms, he has explained the medical terms in detail. The words of the writer have been a combination of sensationalism and conclusive findings. Initially, the reader may be shocked that microorganism is utilized in foods. The author has provided some amount of sensationalism by including words “live bacteria”, etc, which would be really attracting the people. People would be interested in reading the article and getting to know more about the matter. As the people would be going through the article, they would be able to understand how these microorganisms would be beneficial and would also be convinced by the results of conclusive studies.
2. Does the article imply that the current finding wipes out all that has gone before it? Can you detect a broad understanding of this topic on the writer’s part?
The article does not provide something new. In fact the potential benefits of microorganisms are known to man since ancient times. Many cultures throughout the world are using probiotics and prebiotics in their diet, and this is now being utilized by modern research organizations to determine the potential benefits in today’s modern population. The current findings of the article do not wipe out those in the past. It just adds to these findings further. The precise benefits of probiotics and the manner in which it would be acting have been comprehensively reported by the author. The article has also tried to help the people suffering from certain specific diseases and also certain age-groups in selecting the type of probiotics they should consider using in the routine diet. The writer has tried to reveal that the fact of several companies that hold patents for microorganisms would be expiring shortly, and would be entering the public domain. Hence there would be a drop in the prices of several products. The writer wants the public to know the benefits these probiotics products would have so as to ensure better health and well-being. Overall, the writer is convinced that probiotics is a very useful food, and needs to be consumed by people who are healthy and also those who are suffering from certain diseases such as IBS, food allergies, diarrhea, dental infections, respiratory disorders, etc.
3. Does the article mention whether the research results under discussion are published in a medical or nutrition journal?
Yes, the writer gives several references of research studies that were conducted, clearly demonstrating the results with regards to probiotics use. Some of these studies have been published in popular medical journals such as British Medical Journal. These include:-
Strains utilized to treat diarrhea in children
Align products benefiting IBS patients
Faster movement of food through the colon in women who consumed Bifidus regularis milk.
Lower chances of Cl. Difficle infections following use of Lactobacillus casei immunitas products in elders
4. How were the results obtained? Can you tell from the article whether this was a case study, an epidemiological study, an intervention study, or laboratory study? How does the information affect your understanding of what the results have contributed to the science of food microbiology?
The article was a review of several clinical trials (case studies) that were conducted to determine the beneficial effects of probiotics and prebiotics in humans. Each of these studies was conducted in two groups, a case group and a control group. The case group demonstrated benefits from the use of probiotics. In the end, the author comes up with the conclusion that probiotics seem to be very beneficial to man in health and disease. She has also explained the benefits of probiotics in certain specific situations (diseases and age-groups).
In the past, man has made efforts to protect food from the microorganisms, as they can cause disease. Man is aware of being hygienic practices when processing food products. This article has demonstrated that microorganism is not always harmful to man. The use of probiotics in food for human consumption should be closely monitored and subjected to regular inspection.
5. Does the finding apply to you? Should you change your eating patterns because of it?
The article applies to all human beings, in health and disease. Yes to certain extent we need to change our dietary habits by employing more of these friendly microorganisms which could improve digestion better, help in better motility of the gut, improve immune function and help us recover faster from illnesses. Elders, infants and people suffering from gastrointestinal diseases should specially consider applying the findings of this article in their eating habits.
6. Does the finding make sense to you in light of what you know? You may not know enough to make the judgment yet.
Yes the finding makes a lot of sense to my existent knowledge. Probiotics contain friendly-microorganism that have a special place in our gut and perform certain vital functions in our body. Due to our eating and lifestyle habits, we tend to create a disturbance in these microbial counts, which can lead to a lot of diseases and infections (as these friendly organisms are replaced by more dangerous ones). Following drug treatment, it is important to replenish the levels of these microorganisms by consuming probiotics and prebiotics.
Leitzell, K. (November 29, 2007). “Some Bacteria for Brunch? – Health-boosting probiotics are all the rage, but shop carefully.” Retrieved on July 17, 2008, from US Health News Web site: http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/2007/11/29/some-bacteria-for-brunch.html