Spotlight: Insight into Pearls Probiotics: Useful or Just Pretty Packaging?


The probiotic line Pearls, is becoming one of the most popular types of beneficial bacteria supplements. With five different products, a variety of probiotic species, and a special delivery formulation, it’s not easy to judge their quality. In this post, we’ll take a look at Pearls probiotics.

Enzymatic Therapy

The Pearls probiotic line is made by the company Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. located in Green Bay, Wisconsin USA.  This company also makes the line Whole Body Cleanse and Remifemin for menopause symptoms. Several years ago, Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. was acquired by Nature’s Way. Nature’s Way is actually a subsidiary of the German-based company Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals1.

Special Delivery

The unique selling point for Pearls probiotics is that they use a special capsule that ensures the bacteria viability. They call this True Delivery Technology. The capsule is made from pectin and gelatin, ingredients found in many food products like jam or jelly. They guarantee that this capsule survives stomach acids to deliver bacteria to the gut and that it increases the shelf life of the product2. Its use has been described previously in scientific literature3.

The Products

What is interesting about this line is that they have so many formulations, a total of five: Acidophilus Pearls, Pearls YB, Pearls IC, Pearls ELITE and Pearls IMMUNE*. As a researcher, I made a point to look at each product, attempt to define its purpose and examine literature so see if the claims could be viable. Because Pearls does not identify specific strains used in their products, I focused only on the species of the probiotics in the scientific literature that I examined.

Acidophilus Pearls

This product contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum. According to the package, this product is able to address mild intestinal problems like gas, bloating and constipation. It also claims to be able to help improve symptoms related to lactose intolerance. While the company does not provide information regarding the specific strains used in their products, literature looking at the same species does support the claims found.

One study using a combination of L. acidophilus and B. longum strains indicated that they were capable of lowering gastrointestinal symptoms of individuals experiencing chronic stress4. Bifidobacterium longum has good evidence for a beneficial effect on constipation and other mild gastrointestinal symptoms5-8. Many strains of L. acidophilus have been shown to improve lactose digestion and tolerance9, and a B. longum strain has also similar promise10.

Pearls YB

Pearls YB is designed to help with yeast balance. It contains L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus and L. plantarum. One would assume that the targeted customer populations are those with systemic and/or vaginal yeast problems. Literature supports the use of L. acidophilus and L. rhamnosus for yeast issues. Supplementation with a strain of L. acidophilus can treat intestinal Candida albicans overgrowth11, and another strain appeared to prevent vaginal yeast infections12. Lactobacillus rhamnosus reduced C. albicans colonization in vulnerable, low birth weight, pre-term babies13. Lactobacillus plantarum, on the other hand, has yet to be investigated for yeast control.

Pearls IC

The main claims of Pearls IC are deep intestinal care and long-term colon health along with helping keep things in balance during stress. These claims are somewhat vague and are very hard to substantiate. It could be that the company is just referring to the fact that this product contains the largest variety of strains, including L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, B. lactis, B. longum, B. breve and B. bifidum. Another interpretation is that it could protect the individual against future gastrointestinal problems. If this were the case, the mixture is likely to have an impact.

Probiotics species from this mix have been shown to prevent several types of diarrhea, including acute diarrhea14, 15, antibiotic-associated diarrhea16-18 and radiation-induced diarrhea19. Strains from this mix have also treated diarrhea20-23. And, as was mentioned before, L. acidophilus and B. longum are effective for stress induced gastrointestinal symptoms4.

Pearls ELITE

Pearls ELITE is unique in that it contains 5 billion probiotic bacteria per pearl, which is 5x more than the other products. Enzymatic therapy suggests this product for improved overall health, good digestion and deep colon care. The concept is that it replenishes your good bacteria daily. The species included in the mix are L. plantarum, B. lactis, L. acidophilus and B. longum. While the claims sound good, they are similar to the ones made for the product Pearls IC. There is also no real condition mentioned for which this product should be used.

Lactobacillus acidophilus and B. longum were contained in the Acidophilus Pearls product. Therefore, it should be helpful for lactose digestion and mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Lactobacillus plantarum is known from my own literature research to be particularly effective for IBS and gas symptoms. Bifidobacterium lactis was the top probiotic species for constipation according to one of my overviews. This would suggest that this product is definitely a step up from the Acidophilus Pearls product.

Pearls IMMUNE

The goal of the last product is to strengthen the immune system. For this job, it contains L. plantarum, L. acidophilus, B. lactis, B. longum and lactoferrin (15mg, derived from milk). It is the only product in their line that contains a non-bacterial component.

Improving the immune system is a parameter that is often investigated in trials. For these studies scientists measure immune factors like immune messenger molecules and antibody production. They also measure the ability of patients to resist certain infectious diseases. For L. plantarum there are a number of studies that indicate that this probiotic species improves immune parameters. Studies suggest that it strengthens the adaptive immunity needed to fight infection24, 25, prevents allergy26 and increases immune tolerance27. Other published literature demonstrates that Lactobacillus acidophilus helps improve vaccination responses28, 29, modulate adaptive immune responses30, and in combination with B. lactis, improve the activity of phagocytic cells31.

Lactoferrin is a well-known factor found in milk that has many beneficial functions that protect the body from infection. These include antimicrobial activities and antiviral functions32.

Conclusions

It isn’t hard to notice Probiotic Pearls, with the brightly colored blue boxes, clever marketing and cute little round pills. The supplement line contains some of the most well studied probiotic species and uses a novel delivery and storage technology. It’s not a surprise that this supplement line has become so popular.

But, there are some things that do rub me the wrong way. The product line is quite wide. While I do believe that the company delivers a quality product, especially with their novel delivery method, the number of different products containing more or less the same species suggests clever marketing more than condition specific formulas that really matter. I can’t help noticing that they do not have a product that contains all seven species that they use.

The lack of strain information is also a problem as well. Strains of a single species can have diverse characteristics, which make them more suitable for treating different conditions. It is impossible to know from the packaging or website, which strains they’re using, and if they’re using the same strains for each product. Providing this information would clarify some of the rationale behind their multiple formulations and reassure the more scientifically minded customers.

Despite these drawbacks, even I like them. They’re simple, based on good probiotic bacteria and guaranteed to reach the gut.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

*Please note that the links included in this article are affiliate links.

References

1.         Schwabe, World Leader in Herbal Manufacturing Will Acquire Enzymatic Therapy through Nature’s Way Holding, Inc. Enzymatic Therapy – http://www.enzymatictherapy.com/ETIHoldings/Press-Releases/World-Leader-in-Herbal-Manufacturing-Will-Acquire-.aspx Accessed:January 8, 2014.

2.         Probiotic Pearls. Pearls Probiotics – http://www.pearlsprobiotics.com Accessed:January 7, 2014.

3.         Taki K, Takayama F, Niwa T. Beneficial effects of Bifidobacteria in a gastroresistant seamless capsule on hyperhomocysteinemia in hemodialysis patients. J Ren Nutr 2005; 15(1): 77-80.

4.         Diop L, Guillou S, Durand H. Probiotic food supplement reduces stress-induced gastrointestinal symptoms in volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Nutr Res 2008; 28(1): 1-5.

5.         Amenta M, Cascio MT, Di Fiore P, Venturini I. Diet and chronic constipation. Benefits of oral supplementation with symbiotic zir fos (Bifidobacterium longum W11 + FOS Actilight). Acta Biomed 2006; 77(3): 157-162.

6.         Colecchia A, Vestito A, La Rocca A, Pasqui F, Nikiforaki A, Festi D. Effect of a symbiotic preparation on the clinical manifestations of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation-variant. Results of an open, uncontrolled multicenter study. Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol 2006; 52(4): 349-358.

7.         Guerra PV, Lima LN, Souza TC, Mazochi V, Penna FJ, Silva AM et al. Pediatric functional constipation treatment with Bifidobacterium-containing yogurt: a crossover, double-blind, controlled trial. World J Gastroenterol 2011; 17(34): 3916-3921.

8.         Pitkala KH, Strandberg TE, Finne Soveri UH, Ouwehand AC, Poussa T, Salminen S. Fermented cereal with specific bifidobacteria normalizes bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomized, controlled trial. J Nutr Health Aging 2007; 11(4): 305-311.

9.         Mustapha A, Jiang T, Savaiano DA. Improvement of lactose digestion by humans following ingestion of unfermented acidophilus milk: influence of bile sensitivity, lactose transport, and acid tolerance of Lactobacillus acidophilus. J Dairy Sci 1997; 80(8): 1537-1545.

10.       Jiang T, Mustapha A, Savaiano DA. Improvement of lactose digestion in humans by ingestion of unfermented milk containing Bifidobacterium longum. J Dairy Sci 1996; 79(5): 750-757.

11.       Zwolinska-Wcislo M, Brzozowski T, Mach T, Budak A, Trojanowska D, Konturek PC et al. Are probiotics effective in the treatment of fungal colonization of the gastrointestinal tract? Experimental and clinical studies. J Physiol Pharmacol 2006; 57 Suppl 9: 35-49.

12.       Shalev E, Battino S, Weiner E, Colodner R, Keness Y. Ingestion of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus compared with pasteurized yogurt as prophylaxis for recurrent candidal vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis. Arch Fam Med 1996; 5(10): 593-596.

13.       Manzoni P, Mostert M, Leonessa ML, Priolo C, Farina D, Monetti C et al. Oral supplementation with Lactobacillus casei subspecies rhamnosus prevents enteric colonization by Candida species in preterm neonates: a randomized study. Clin Infect Dis 2006; 42(12): 1735-1742.

14.       Chouraqui JP, Van Egroo LD, Fichot MC. Acidified milk formula supplemented with bifidobacterium lactis: impact on infant diarrhea in residential care settings. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2004; 38(3): 288-292.

15.       Araki K, Shinozaki T, Irie Y, Miyazawa Y. [Trial of oral administration of Bifidobacterium breve for the prevention of rotavirus infections]. Kansenshogaku Zasshi 1999; 73(4): 305-310.

16.       de Vrese M, Kristen H, Rautenberg P, Laue C, Schrezenmeir J. Probiotic lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in a fermented milk product with added fruit preparation reduce antibiotic associated diarrhea and Helicobacter pylori activity. J Dairy Res 2011; 78(4): 396-403.

17.       Arvola T, Laiho K, Torkkeli S, Mykkanen H, Salminen S, Maunula L et al. Prophylactic Lactobacillus GG reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children with respiratory infections: a randomized study. Pediatrics 1999; 104(5): e64.

18.       Vanderhoof JA, Whitney DB, Antonson DL, Hanner TL, Lupo JV, Young RJ. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children. J Pediatr 1999; 135(5): 564-568.

19.       Chitapanarux I, Chitapanarux T, Traisathit P, Kudumpee S, Tharavichitkul E, Lorvidhaya V. Randomized controlled trial of live lactobacillus acidophilus plus bifidobacterium bifidum in prophylaxis of diarrhea during radiotherapy in cervical cancer patients. Radiat Oncol 2010; 5: 31.

20.       Xiao SD, Zhang DZ, Lu H, Jiang SH, Liu HY, Wang GS et al. Multicenter, randomized, controlled trial of heat-killed Lactobacillus acidophilus LB in patients with chronic diarrhea. Adv Ther 2003; 20(5): 253-260.

21.       Basu S, Chatterjee M, Ganguly S, Chandra PK. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in persistent diarrhea in Indian children: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Gastroenterol 2007; 41(8): 756-760.

22.       Basu S, Paul DK, Ganguly S, Chatterjee M, Chandra PK. Efficacy of high-dose Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in controlling acute watery diarrhea in Indian children: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Gastroenterol 2009; 43(3): 208-213.

23.       Majamaa H, Isolauri E, Saxelin M, Vesikari T. Lactic acid bacteria in the treatment of acute rotavirus gastroenteritis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1995; 20(3): 333-338.

24.       Hirose Y, Murosaki S, Yamamoto Y, Yoshikai Y, Tsuru T. Daily intake of heat-killed Lactobacillus plantarum L-137 augments acquired immunity in healthy adults. J Nutr 2006; 136(12): 3069-3073.

25.       Mane J, Pedrosa E, Loren V, Gassull MA, Espadaler J, Cune J et al. A mixture of Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7315 and CECT 7316 enhances systemic immunity in elderly subjects. A dose-response, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized pilot trial. Nutr Hosp 2011; 26(1): 228-235.

26.       Snel J, Vissers YM, Smit BA, Jongen JM, van der Meulen ET, Zwijsen R et al. Strain-specific immunomodulatory effects of Lactobacillus plantarum strains on birch-pollen-allergic subjects out of season. Clin Exp Allergy 2011; 41(2): 232-242.

27.       van Baarlen P, Troost FJ, van Hemert S, van der Meer C, de Vos WM, de Groot PJ et al. Differential NF-kappaB pathways induction by Lactobacillus plantarum in the duodenum of healthy humans correlating with immune tolerance. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009; 106(7): 2371-2376.

28.       de Vrese M, Rautenberg P, Laue C, Koopmans M, Herremans T, Schrezenmeir J. Probiotic bacteria stimulate virus-specific neutralizing antibodies following a booster polio vaccination. Eur J Nutr 2005; 44(7): 406-413.

29.       Paineau D, Carcano D, Leyer G, Darquy S, Alyanakian MA, Simoneau G et al. Effects of seven potential probiotic strains on specific immune responses in healthy adults: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 2008; 53(1): 107-113.

30.       Wheeler JG, Shema SJ, Bogle ML, Shirrell MA, Burks AW, Pittler A et al. Immune and clinical impact of Lactobacillus acidophilus on asthma. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1997; 79(3): 229-233.

31.       Klein A, Friedrich U, Vogelsang H, Jahreis G. Lactobacillus acidophilus 74-2 and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis DGCC 420 modulate unspecific cellular immune response in healthy adults. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008; 62(5): 584-593.

32.       Lactoferrin. Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactoferrin Accessed:January 8, 2014.

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