Probiotic food products contain a variety of different bacterial strains and may offer different health effects. The objective was to document the prevalence and dosage of probiotic strains in the Canadian food supply and to review the literature investigating these strains in order to understand what health benefits these products may offer. The Food Label Information Program was used to identify probiotic-containing products in the food supply. PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase were searched for randomized controlled trials that tested the health effects of these strains in humans. There were six probiotic strains/strain combinations identified in the food supply. Thirty-one studies investigated these strains and found that they are associated with decreased diarrhea and constipation, improved digestive symptoms, glycemic control, antioxidant status, blood lipids, oral health, and infant breastfeeding outcomes, as well as enhanced immunity and support for Helicobacter pylori eradication. There were a limited number of studies investigating these strains. Many studies were funded by the food industry and tested dosages that were up to twenty-five times the dosage found in most food products. Probiotic food products could have health benefits not currently reported on their labels. However, many dosages are too low to provide the benefits demonstrated in clinical trials. Further research is needed to enable more effective use of these functional foods.
Keywords: Canada; dairy products; food supply; functional foods; microbiome; packaged foods; preventive medicine; probiotics; public health; yogurt.