British Journal of Nutrition

Horizons in Nutritional Science

Health benefits and health claims of probiotics: bridging science and marketing

Ger T. Rijkersa1a2 c1, Willem M. de Vosa3a4, Robert-Jan Brummera5, Lorenzo Morellia6, Gerard Corthiera7 and Philippe Marteaua8

a1 Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

a2 Laboratory for Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Saint Antonius Hospital, PO Box 2500, 3430 EM Nieuwegein, The Netherlands

a3 Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

a4 Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

a5 School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden

a6 Istituto di Microbiologia, Facoltà di Agraria, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Piacenza, Italy

a7 INRA, U910, MICALIS, Jouy-en-Josas, France

a8 Gastroenterology Unit, Lariboisière Hospital, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris, France


Health claims for probiotics are evaluated by the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies of the European Food Safety Authority. Despite a substantial amount of basic and clinical research on the beneficial effects of probiotics, all of the evaluated claim applications thus far have received a negative opinion. With the restrictions on the use of clinical endpoints, validated biomarkers for gut health and immune health in relation to reduction in disease risk are needed. Clear-cut criteria for design as well as evaluation of future studies are needed. An open dialogue between basic and clinical scientists, regulatory authorities, food and nutrition industry, and consumers could bridge the gap between science and marketing of probiotics.

(Received December 01 2010)

(Revised March 24 2011)

(Accepted April 16 2011)

(Online publication August 24 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: G. T. Rijkers, fax +31 30609 2429, email


Abbreviations: EFSA, European Food Safety Authority; EU, European Union; IBS, irritable bowel syndrome; NDA, Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies; NK, natural killer