A woman shops in the pharmacy area of a Walmart store in Mount Prospect, Illinois. A woman shops in the pharmacy area of a Walmart store in Mount Prospect, Illinois. A woman shops in the pharmacy area of a Walmart store in Mount Prospect, Illinois. (Photo: Tim Boyle / Getty Images)

Are probiotic vitamins mostly useless? New study takes a look

Research casts doubt on the effectiveness of the popular dietary supplement.

Probiotic vitamins, which are used commonly to treat common gastrointestinal problems as well as to counter the effects of antibiotics, have little to no health benefit. That's according to a new study by researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science.

The over-the-counter dietary supplements are taken by almost 4 million adults per year. So Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at Weizmann and a senior author of the study, decided to examine whether the active cultures do what they claim to do – colonize the GI tract and improve the symptoms that are causing the patient discomfort or pain.

A shopper reaches for the Greek yogurt at the grand opening of a Trader Joe's in the Miami area. A shopper reaches for the Greek yogurt at a Trader Joe's. People commonly eat probiotic yogurt to stimulate their GI tract. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

He and his team conducted two studies: one where they measured participants' gut bacteria directly through endoscopies and colonoscopies, and the other where participants took a course of antibiotics and observed the difference between participants who took probiotics afterward and those who didn't.

“Our results suggest that probiotics should not be universally given to the public as a ‘one size fits all’ supplement,” Elinav said. “Instead, they could be tailored to each individual and their particular needs. Our findings even suggest how such personalization might be carried out.”

Elinav and his team have done extensive research on personalized medicine, including the idea that one-size-fits-all diets don't work. He and colleague Eran Segal say it's time to admit to ourselves that when it comes to nutrition, it's about doing what works best for your body, not catching the latest fad diet wave.

woman on scale holding donut in one hand and apple in the other It's so hard to choose, isn't it? But with a personalized diet, it might be a lot easier. (Photo: Yuriy Maksymiv/Shutterstock)

They also reported in a 2015 study that artificial sweeteners are more harmful than once thought, urging people to choose natural alternatives like dates and maple syrup instead.

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Are probiotic vitamins mostly useless? New study takes a look
Research casts doubt on the effectiveness of the popular dietary supplement.