What are probiotics?

Probiotics: derived from the Latin “pro” (for) and “biota” (life)

Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘live microorganisms that confer a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts.’ To be officially classified as probiotics, probiotic products must contain live bacteria, and these bacteria must have scientifically documented health benefits. The product must also contain a certain number of Colony Forming Units (CFU) of live bacteria.

WHO’s role in defining ‘probiotics’ ensures clarity, quality, evidence-based recommendations, and consumer protection. By defining probiotics, the WHO provides researchers, healthcare professionals, and consumers with a common ground for terminology.

As the global probiotic industry is fragmented and lacks uniform regulations, particularly regarding efficacy and quality, we will put this definition under the microscope by exploring what it takes to be an authentic probiotic, in contrast to other supplements marketed as such.

For a probiotic to qualify as a true probiotic, any health benefits must be proven by clinical trials. In addition, a probiotic product must contain the same strain(s) and dose used in clinical trials.

Probiotic myths

Living microorganisms as probiotics

The incredible diversity of microorganisms encompasses fungi, yeasts, viruses, and more, yet the most common probiotic microorganisms are bacteria.

To be called a probiotic, the bacteria must remain alive and maintain viability throughout the product’s shelf life. This requires expertise and careful handling during production, packaging, and storage.

Exposure to humidity, high temperature, and the presence of oxygen all play a role; therefore, probiotics require meticulous end-to-end handling to ensure that these delicate microorganisms survive. And, like all living things, bacteria naturally die off over time. Thus, the number of microorganisms declines from manufacturing to purchase.

We employ various methods to assess the viability and activity of our bacteria strains. These techniques ensure that all BioGaia probiotics remain alive, safe, and effective.

Backed by science

We collaborate with leading academic research institutions and these partnerships allow us to validate our rationally designed probiotic formulations through rigorous clinical trials. Most of our trials are double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled, ensuring robust scientific evidence.

Stringent quality standards

From state-of-the-art manufacturing to storage and distribution, we follow strict guidelines. Our quality control measures ensure that every batch meets safety and efficacy standards.

Individually fermented and freeze-dried, the bacteria in our products remain dormant until they encounter saliva and reach a higher temperature, at which point they awaken, are clinically proven to be ‘alive’, and begin their probiotic effects.

The science behind probiotic dosage and “adequate amounts”

Millions to billions? Probiotic supplement dosing is measured by Colony Forming Units or CFU. Clinical trials with a specific probiotic strain determine how many CFU are necessary to deliver the intended health benefit. If the product contains several different bacterial strains, each strain should be defined and contain the exact clinically relevant dose and clinical trials done on the exact same dosage.

“Adequate amounts” include the recommended CFU at the end of shelf-life, not the date of manufacture. The natural decline of living bacteria during storage must be considered at the production stage.

All our products are tested for total viable count and the bacteria count is confirmed at the end of shelf life, when kept at room temperature.

Designed to survive

Live bacteria have to survive the journey through to acidic environment of the stomach if they are to reach the gut alive. Our clinical studies show that our carefully selected probiotic strains, such as L. reuteri, are proven to survive and reach the gut alive.

What are the health benefits of probiotics?

Bacteria are classified according to their genus, species, and strain. For a probiotic to be authentic, it must offer strain-specific proven health advantages to the target group. These need to be clinical studies conducted on humans, not studies done in vitro.

The selection of bacteria strains is crucial for identifying probiotic impact. Despite belonging to the same species, different bacterial strains can have different effects.

One of the world’s most researched probiotic strain

As a pioneer in the field, BioGaia has been at the forefront of probiotic and microbiome research for around 35 years.

Our team of microbiologists, metabolism experts, process experts, and those responsible for clinical development collaborate with a comprehensive international network of leading researchers and doctors.

Our probiotic formulations consist of clinically and scientifically studied strains evaluated by academic institutions and research partners all over the world, from Houston to Sydney.

BioGaia’s L. reuteri strains are among the most extensively studied in both preclinical and clinical research. Over 260 clinical studies have been conducted involving more than 22,000 individuals of various ages.

Our precision probiotics are clinically evidenced to show improved human health outcomes within gut-, immune-, and oral health.

BioGaia currently has over 600 granted patents for various bacteria strains.

Learn more about our strains


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individuals of various ages that been involved in these studies

The future of probiotics

As science delves deeper and technology accelerates, the future of probiotics heralds exciting possibilities for shaping human health and well-being.

This evolving landscape promises innovative solutions to address a myriad of health concerns, from metabolic disorders to inflammatory conditions, shaping the way we perceive and harness the power of beneficial bacteria for human well-being.

In this exciting frontier, both traditional and next-generation probiotics are poised to elevate human health.

Next-generation probiotics

Next-generation probiotics (NGPs) represent cutting-edge science in health and wellness. Empowered by new technologies, our researchers are unlocking the potential of these previously uncultivable powerhouses. These advanced strains and formulations combine with precision science to target specific microbial imbalances, offering tailored solutions for diverse health concerns.

While research is still young, we believe the possibilities are vast. From our newly opened laboratory in Eslöv, Sweden, our industry-leading work in metagenomics and strain development contributes to the exciting field of next-generation probiotics.

Unlocking a new frontier for human health

Embracing a holistic approach to wellness, the future of probiotics – both traditional and NGPs – stand poised to revolutionize preventive healthcare, empowering individuals to cultivate thriving microbial ecosystems and unlock their full potential for vitality and longevity.

What is a probiotic strain?

Bacteria are classified according to their genus, species and strain. There are different strains of bacteria with different genetic compositions, resulting in different characteristics.

Biological strains are populations of bacteria that descend from a single individual or pure culture. Bacteria of the same strain have certain characteristics that differentiate them from bacteria of other strains.

Read more about Probiotic strains


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