There is potential for probiotic cultures to provide health and nutritional benefits for consumers. However, data are insufficient in most instances to permit specific health claims to be made in the United States for dairy products containing such bacteria. Improvement of lactose utilization by lactose maldigestors is a possible exception. Before specific health claims can be made for most of these products, it is necessary for clinical trials to establish that the benefits indeed occur. Such trials should be conducted using only probiotic bacteria that have been selected for a specific activity. In other words, they should be selected in some manner to ensure they likely will produce the desired health or nutritional benefits (Gilliland, 1990).
In some European countries, products containing probiotics are marketed as providing certain health benefits. As an example, one in the Netherlands has been promoted as helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Others have been promoted as helping to maintain desirable intestinal microflora. With recent approval to promote oat fiber and soy protein for specific health benefits in the United States, it may be possible in the future for other functional foods, such as those containing probiotics, to be marketed as providing certain health or nutritional benefits to consumers.
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