THE PROBIOTIC DEBATE
Dog owners watch commercials. Dogs do not. We choose a pet food based on what ad agencies tell us but use of prebiotics and probiotics are debated even within the medical community.
September 2010 | TheDogPress.com
Nel Liquorman, Nutrition Editor
For thousands of years, dogs knew what to eat. Today we ask “what is the best food for my dog?” but the fact is, our animals must eat whatever food we decide is best for them, having been influenced by clever marketing. Instinct and sense of smell overwhelmed by the “natural flavorings” in pet foods, dogs eagerly eat whatever we feed them.
Unlike any other carnivore on the planet including zoo specimens, day after day, dogs (and cats) ingest exactly the same commercial pet food with little to no variation in ingredients, flavors, fats or proteins. It doesn’t matter that their bodies are meant to ingest a variety of foods. As regards prebiotics and probiotics, it matters not that nature provides abundant natural “digestive aids” including those found in the organs of their prey.
The question is do dogs need prebiotics or probiotics from a laboratory? Given that much of our own food comes out of a box, perhaps we also need digestive aids? You decide. Thanks to an alert reader, we present additional information on laboratory-created prebiotics and probiotics.
Janice Koler-Matznick, M.S. While I agree with her that claims for benefits of probiotics, especially the dried forms, need to be documented (prebiotics seem a waste of time/money as normal diets provide plenty), I was very sad that in her August 2010 column PROBIOTICS: FOOD OR DRUGS? Nel Liquorman engaged in scare tactics rather than reasoned information. For example, she said "After decades of trying to kill bacteria..., why would we consider feeding any kind of bacteria to our pets?" Surely she is aware that yoghurt's well-known benefit comes from the same live bacteria used in probiotics. GOOD bacteria form part of mammal immune systems and finish digesting food.
The author also made this misleading statement: "Twenty-four patients treated with probiotics died. The cause of death in each case was narrowed down to one of these three reasons: use of probiotics on gravely ill patients, probiotics were administered through feeding tubes into the intestines, or patients were in the acute phase of the disease when the bacteria was administered. But the bottom line is that they used probiotics and the patients died as a result." Liquorman does not have the data to make the direct connection that patients died as a "result of" probiotics rather than experimental method effects. The reference Liquorman provided says 9 of the untreated group died, so the probiotics group had about 2.5 times as many deaths. However, were control and experimental groups matched perfectly on disease severity? The probiotics were administered directly into the intestines of severely ill patients. Unless we know that the control group also had a matching mock procedure, say with saline solution, then the deaths could have been due to failure of experimental method. The results (as provided) actually indicate:
(1) probiotics should not be inserted directly into intestines;
(2) probiotics should not be administered to patients with severe acute pancreatitis.
Janice Koler-Matznick, M.S., A.C.A.A.B., The Dog Advisor Behavior Services, Kandu Rhodesian Ridgebacks, The New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, IUCN Canid Specialist Group (member)
Nel Liquorman, Nutrition Editor, responds:
Thanks for reading my column. In response to your statement “Surely she is aware that yoghurt's well-known benefit comes from the same live bacteria used in probiotics. GOOD bacteria form part of mammal immune systems and finish digesting food."
Bacteria die off during the making of yogurt. When some makers decided to add lactobacillus acidophilus back to their product, every yogurt maker seems to have jumped on the bandwagon, and started adding bacteria to finished yogurt. Many also started adding fibers.
Even Dannon's plain yogurt, which clearly stated on the container that they never add anything to their yogurt, now adds bacteria.
I got sick several times from an “all natural” yogurt that contained the "functional fiber" Inulin (trade name) before I could trace it to my problems.
My statement concerning the number of patients treated with probiotics that died and the three reasons for their deaths came from the hospital’s news given to and reported by Reuters (ref #1). The article is now archived, however, if you are interested, I am sure you could locate it.
All the data that I reported was published by Reuters on the website and related the reasons narrowed down by the hospital and was clearly stated by the hospital’s spokesperson as to the causes of the deaths. It was the spokesperson who stated that the end result was that the patients died from the bacteria, so you see, it was not my connections or my assessment of the data.
This statement can be found at the StaticRNN website (ref #2): "Probiotics are living bacteria that are used in the treatment of intestinal complaints. A spokesman for the Utrecht hospital said a number of the patients involved might still have been alive had they not been given the bacteria".
So, I think that my statement: “But the bottom line is that they used probiotics and the patients died as a result" is justified.
Sometimes scaring people is the only way to wake them up to the fact that they should do some research before accepting every new trend in the food and health industry. Do you realize that most food reactions go unreported? Many people self-diagnose salmonella as the flu unless they get so sick that they go to the hospital.
There are plenty of news reports about the deaths at the Utrecht hospital on the internet. The interesting thing is that I would never have known about it if I had not been researching probiotics, even though I keep a television news channel on during the day while I am working. The bacteria-inducted deaths happened two years ago and it took me two years to bump into it.
My research involves what Universities, Scientists, and Experts acknowledge as their findings, much of it is not widely reported by the news media. I do not evaluate their data, but only report it as part of the explanation for results of their findings.
I hope this helps.
Nell Liquorman, TheDogPress Nutrition Editor
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