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Probiotics - Say What? Our Response To CNN's Report on Probiotics

Probiotics - Say What? Our Response To CNN's Report on Probiotics

Written by Stefan Weitz (founder of Jetson) and Jetson Gut Council Members: Dr. Anthony Padula - MD, Dr. Gillian Ehrlich - ARNP - DNP, and Dr. Illene Ruhoy - MD - PhD.

You may have seen an article on CNN recapping a study published by the American Gastroenterological Association saying there “isn't enough evidence for probiotics to recommend taking them.”

We disagree.

First, the headline is misleading – “Probiotics don't do much for most people's gut health despite the hype, review finds.” This probably wasn’t intentional... nuance is hard in tweets. The AGA study discussed in the article was limited to investigating the role of probiotics in treating gastrointestinal disorders (IBS, Crohn’s, C. difficile infections, diarrhea, gastroenteritis) and even within that, the study did find real results using certain strains against certain conditions.  Furthermore, the article raises the specter of the ‘risk of taking probiotics’ for which there is no evidence except in very certain cases. But again, headlines are hard.

That said, we DO agree with the article on a number of points:

"Selecting an effective probiotic means matching the specific probiotic strain to the type of disease that needs treatment. Most of the time, the labels on the probiotic products are not helpful.”

We agree. At Jetson, we only use strains that are studied for efficacy.  Many probiotic companies use the cheapest, generic strains they can find – and the study is right; generic strains aren’t studied to have any effect on your health. Unlike those who take generic probiotics, people actually report differences in their health after taking Jetson for one month. In fact, less than 20% of people leave Jetson because they didn’t notice a difference in how they felt (compare this to the fact that only about 60% of studied prescription medications have material health-related benefits).  How can you tell if you have generic strains in your probiotic?  If there are no letters and numbers after the bacterial names, you’re getting mystery bacteria.

"Not all probiotics are created equal. Some probiotic strains and mixtures are very effective for some types of diseases and should not be overlooked due to studies that lump all probiotics together as one.”

Again, we agree. It’s not just that we use studied strains at Jetson, but we tune our blends every 3 months. This allows us to use the latest bacteria proven to deliver results against things people care about – mood, fitness, immune function and allergy-related symptoms. No other company even comes close.  

“However, this does not imply that such evidence does not exist for other GI and non-GI disorders. In fact, there is accumulating evidence in support of probiotic use in liver and metabolic diseases as well as H. pylori infection among other conditions, and these could be explored in subsequent technical reviews.”

We agree.  There is an accumulating body of evidence that probiotics have real, material effects on people’s health outside of GI disorders. I list a few below:

Look, we’ve said from the day we launched that there is no such thing as a magic pill – health is a complex balance to get right. At Jetson, our goal is to make it achievable for everyone.  Drinking water, eating your greens, sleeping, exercising and taking care of your gut are the things that will make most Americans better off today than they were yesterday. The AGA is right about one thing: probiotics are over-marketed by unscrupulous companies and manufacturers going after a $6B market. I can’t speak for them, but I can tell you a few things about us:

  • We only use named, studied strains that have some level of proven efficacy
  • We make our pills in small batches, so they are fresh (one of the key things the AGA study calls out)
  • We test every batch of our probiotics to ensure we are consistent with what’s on our labels
  • We change our formulations every 3 months as science discovers new benefits of probiotics on human health 

This year, over 4000 studies will be conducted on probiotics and their impact on gut health, which translates to their effect on overall health. 

Beyond that, I can tell you a few things:

  • I can tell probiotics helped me overcome the serious complications of multiple sclerosis medication and has helped me live a pain and symptom-free life.  
  • I can tell you it’s helping thousands of our customers - our insanely positive reviews and letters we get every day from customers who tell our story better than any marketing material ever could.  
  • Science evolves daily. So do our products. No one else can say that.  

So with all due respect to CNN and the AGA, let’s be careful with our words. The science isn’t settled - I will give you that - but the benefits are being felt by millions of people, daily. And you can be sure, at least with Jetson, that when the world’s scientists discover the Next Great Strain, you’ll be the first to have it.