The design of probiotic studies to substantiate health claims
Gibson, G. R., Brummer , R. J., Isolauri , E., Lochs , H., Morelli, L., Ockhuizen, T., Rowland, I. R., Schrenzenmeir, J., Stanton, C. and Verbeke, K. (2011) The design of probiotic studies to substantiate health claims. Gut Microbes, 2 (5). pp. 299-305. ISSN 1949-0984
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To link to this article DOI: 10.4161/gmic.2.5.18002
The EC Regulation No. 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health claims made on foods has generated considerable debate and concern among scientists and industry. At the time of writing, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not approved any probiotic claims despite numerous human trials and meta-analyses showing evidence of beneficial effects. On 29th and 30th September 2010, ten independent, academic scientists with a documented record in probiotic research, met to discuss designs for future probiotic studies to demonstrate health benefits for gut and immune function. The expert panel recommended the following: (i) always formulate a precise and concrete hypothesis, and appropriate goals and parameters before starting a trial; (ii) ensure trials have sufficient sample size, such that they are adequately powered to reach statistically significant conclusions, either supporting or rejecting the a priori hypothesis, taking into account adjustment for multiple testing (this might necessitate more than one recruitment site); (iii) ensure trials are of appropriate duration; (iv) focus on a single, primary objective and only evaluate multiple parameters when they are hypothesis-driven. The panel agreed that there was an urgent need to better define which biomarkers are considered valuable for substantiation of a health claim. As a first step, the panel welcomed the publication on the day of the meeting of EFSA's draft guidance document on immune and gut health, although it came too late for study designs and dossiers to be adjusted accordingly. New validated biomarkers need to be identified in order to properly determine the range of physiological functions influenced by probiotics. In addition, validated biomarkers reflecting risk factors for disease, are required for article 14 claims (EC Regulation No. 1924/2006). Finally, the panel concluded that consensus among scientists is needed to decide appropriate clinical endpoints for trials.