September 2022

Probiotics Project: The World of Postbiotics

Last month, we reviewed the changes to the Lactobacillus genus and announced our exciting new CE course – Microbiome Medley: Pre-, Pro-, and Postbiotics. This month, we’re closing out our probiotics series with an introduction to one of the newer hot topics in the microbiome world: postbiotics – also known as “zombie probiotics” or “ghost probiotics”. 

The definition of “postbiotics'' is somewhat controversial – different organizations define it in various ways. But the general consensus is that unlike probiotics, postbiotics are not alive. Postbiotics are "inactivated" or killed microorganisms or microorganism components. Inactivated microorganisms are thought to offer health benefits due to the components they release. For a product to be called a “postbiotic,” it must be clear which methods were used to inactivate the microorganism, and there must be a confirmed health benefit. For example, Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium bifidum that are no longer alive would be considered postbiotics.

Research on postbiotics continues to unfold. There’s a lot we still don’t know, but interest is growing for a variety of reasons, including the belief that they might be safer than probiotics and have a possible extended shelf-life. But there are challenges in evaluating research in this area, as it's not always clear if the substances being researched would truly fit the definition of a postbiotic. And much like probiotics, each specific inactivated microorganism is likely to have unique effects.

The world of microbiome-based products is ever-changing. The rapidly expanding data are providing more and more insight into how these products can be used. Stay tuned – we’ll continue to update you on major developments in this space. Until then, be sure to review all of our new monographs and check out our new comprehensive CE.

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