From 1999 to 2018, non-food prebiotic, probiotic, and synbiotic use has increased in the United States (US). Approximately 1 in 20 US adults or children have reported use of these products. Most individuals voluntarily use non-food prebiotic, probiotic, and synbiotic products for digestive or general health reasons. Despite the growing popularity of these products, scientific consensus is lacking. These findings were reported in Gastroenterology.

Investigators aimed to describe non-food (from dietary supplements or medication) prebiotic, probiotic, and synbiotic use by US adults and children and reported reasons for using these products.

Researchers utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for this analysis. The investigators described trends in use from 1999-2018 (n=101,199) and prevalence in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 (n=19,215) within different age groups, genders, ethnicities/races, education and income levels, self-reported diet and health quality, and prescription gastrointestinal medication use stratified by children (<19 years) and adults (19+ years). 


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From 2017 to 2018, 5.6% (95% CI, 4.6-6.7%) of the US population reported using a non-food prebiotic, probiotic, or synbiotic product as a dietary supplement or prescription medication in the past 30 days (2.4% [95% CI, 1.7-3.2%] for 0-19 years and 6.7% [95% CI, 5.6-8.0%] for 20+ years). 

The prevalence of self-reported non-food prebiotic use in the US was the following: 2.4% (95% CI, 2.0-2.9%) for all ages, 0.8% (95% CI, 0.6-1.2%) for 0-19 years, and 2.9% (95% CI, 2.4-3.5%) for 20+ years.

The prevalence of self-reported non-food probiotic use in the US was the following: 4.5% (95% CI, 3.5-5.6%) for all ages, 2.1% (95% CI, 1.4-2.9%) for 0-19 years, and 5.3% (95% CI, 4.2-6.6%) for 20+ years.

The prevalence of self-reported non-food synbiotic use in the US was the following: 1.1% (95% CI, 0.8-1.5%) for all ages, 0.5% (95% CI, 0.3-0.8%) for 0-19 years, and 1.3% (95% CI, 0.9-1.8%) for 20+ years.

Use of non-food prebiotic, probiotic, and synbiotic products was highest among the following groups: older adults, non-Hispanic Whites, those with higher educational attainment and income, more favorable self-reported diet or health quality, and concurrent prescription gastrointestinal medication use.

The most common reasons for using non-food prebiotic, probiotic, and synbiotic products were for digestive and general health.

The study was not without limitations. Authors noted that some products that were assigned to participants may have had incorrect formulations.   

“Recent uptake of non-food pre-, pro-, and synbiotic products in the general public highlights the need for continued safety and efficacy research. Clinicians and public health officials should carefully discuss the role of these commonly consumed, but not fully understood, products in healthcare and public health,” the study authors wrote.

Reference

O’Connor LE, Gahche JJ, Herrick KA, Davis CD, Potischman N, Vargas AJ. Non-food prebiotic, probiotic, and symbiotic use has increased in US adults and children from 1999 to 2018. Gastroenterol. Published online April 22, 2021. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2021.04.037

This article originally appeared on Gastroenterology Advisor