Recently, I received yet another sample of a probiotic to try. According to the label, it contained “Lactobacillus sporogenes– a shelf-stable, vegan probiotic that does not require refrigeration.” But here’s the problem: There is actually no such species as Lactobacillus sporogenes. Which then leads us to question of what exactly is in all these probiotic products?

It’s important to keep in mind that Lactobacillus refers to bacteria that are capable of producing lactic acid. Hence, these bacteria are traditionally cultured in milk. Supplements containing Bacillus bacteria are NOT cultured in milk and they are derived from the soil.

Lactobacilllus bacteria do not form spores and they do not remain permanently in your gut – this is why you have to keep consuming yoghurt, kefir, etc. daily. But soil bacteria ALL form spores and these spores remain in your gut and cannot be eradicated by any means identified to date. For a full outline of the possible dangers of consuming bacterial soil organisms, see my blog post about soil organisms.

Following is an excellent summation of this issue from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) that explains exactly what is happening and why probiotics claiming to contain Lactobacillus sporogenes may actually contain a bacterial soil organism called Bacillus coagulans, or possibly Bacillus subtilis – but really, who knows?

Personally, I strongly suspect that the companies putting out these products are operating out of ignorance. And based on my personal experience with probiotic manufacturers – most of whom are just middle-man wholesalers – I suspect that they too are ignorant of the facts. As I talked about in my Probiotics 1 Teleseminar, misinformation in the field of probiotics is vast.

Here is the article from ASM so you can be properly informed on this issue:

“Lactobacillus sporogenes” Is Not a Lactobacillus Probiotic

Microbes have proven their value in a plethora of industrial settings, including their use as probiotics, or healthpromoting microbes. Within the probiotic industry, there are those who disregard the conventions of bacterial nomenclature. Perhaps the best example of this is the use of the name “Lactobacillus sporogenes” on probiotic labels, instead of the proper nomenclature, which assigns this bacterium to the genus Bacillus (Bergey’s Manual, 1974). List of Bacterial Names with Standing in Nomenclature.

The name “Lactobacillus sporogenes” appeared in the scientific literature in 1932 (L. M. HorowitzWlassowa and N. W. Nowotelnow, Cent. F. Bak., II Abt., 87:331, 1932). However, this name was never recognized by the scientific community, and was described as a misclassification in Bergey’s Manual in 1939. The bacterium described by HorowitzWlassowa and Nowotelnow was a sporeforming bacterium, and as such could not be included as a species of Lactobacillus, which are nonsporeforming rods. This assertion was confirmed in the 5th, 6th, and 8th editions of Bergey’s Manual of Determinative Bacteriology. The 4th and 7th editions do not mention the name “Lactobacillus sporogenes,” nor does the Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology (1986). The name is not listed on the official bacterial nomenclature list, the List of Bacterial Names with Standing in Nomenclature.

Clearly, the name “Lactobacillus sporogenes” has no scientific validity. Although there is no official classification of bacteria, the names given to bacteria are regulated through the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria (Bacteriological Code). However, this name still appears on the labels of probiotic supplements worldwide and in a few publications of Asian journals. The implications of the persistence of this mislabeling should be considered. The most important of these is safety. Since “Lactobacillus sporogenes” is not recognized as a species, a product labeled with this name confirms nothing about its contents. It may be a Bacillus coagulans, as marketing literature from at least one company claims (Sabinsa Corp., Piscataway, N.J.), but is it prudent to make this presumption, especially with products making no assertion of correct nomenclature? If the identity of the bacterium is in question, no conclusions about its safety can be made.

Although B. coagulans is not considered pathogenic, neither is it an organism normally associated with food production (although Bacillus subtilis is used in the production of “natto,” a Japanese food), a status enjoyed by many members of the genus Lactobacillus. Presumably the products on the market are consumed without undue risk. However, no independent panel of experts has evaluated the safety of B. coagulans for human consumption as has been done for the lactobacilli. Erroneously calling this organism a lactobacillus incorrectly associates it with the same safety record as lactobacilli.

Another implication of mislabeling is related to probiotic product efficacy. Unlike probiotic species of lactobacilli, members of the genus Bacillus are not considered normal members of the intestinal flora and do persist in the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. Published literature supporting the role of Bacillus coagulans in enhancing human health is sparse, especially as compared to literature published on Lactobacillus use as probiotics. To continue to persist using this taxonomically incorrect name leads to speculation about the advantages of willingly mislabeling a product. It is likely that companies hope to benefit from association with the large aggregate of published literature and history of use on the safety and health benefits of the genus Lactobacillus. This “halo effect” would disappear if products were labeled as containing Bacillus instead of Lactobacillus.

Furthermore, a marketing advantage can be achieved by using shelfstable Bacillus spores instead of more labile Lactobacillus. The perpetuation of intentional mislabeling in the long run will serve to erode consumer confidence and undermine the credibility of the probiotic industry. Furthermore, the implications of mislabeling may have negative regulatory implications for the entire probiotic category. The FDA convened an information-gathering meeting in September 2000 on probiotics, suggesting we can expect closer regulatory scrutiny of this product category in the future (Clemens, R., Food Technol. 55:27, 2001). The industry should act to correct the issue of mislabeling before the FDA or consumer watchdog groups do it first.

– Mary Ellen Sanders Dairy and Food Culture Technologies Littleton, Colo. mesanders@msn.com
– Lorenzo Morelli Instituto di Microbiologia UCSC Piacenza, Italy
– Scott Bush Rhodia Inc. Madison, Wis.

I once tried sending this information to one of the largest retailers selling a probiotic product labelled “Lactobacillus sporogenes”. Surprise, surprise, I never heard back from them, and they didn’t change their labelling or marketing materials. So once again, the burden of knowledge falls on the consumer. Until we have a sincere, functional regulatory body for supplements (i.e. not the FDA et al) these kinds of potentially-dangerous situations will continue to occur.

The Lactobacillus sporogenes Hoax
18 Comments

18 thoughts on “The Lactobacillus sporogenes Hoax

  • Unreal! It is amazing how dishonest some people can be to make money. My husband and I have really learned to be our own advocates and our children’s after our son suffered from severe allergies and Eczema and the only answers that doctors had were potent meds (including steroids that his body became dependent on). He was feeling so terrible we just knew we had to be the one’s to say “enough, with all the drugs” and find some healthier treatment options. That is when we found out about Vidazorb probiotics and have learned so much since then. THey are fantastic and have been an answer to our prayers…they have been the only thing to really help him. He is now a happy and healthy little boy and only gets small spots here and there of Eczema and can eat almost anything! It has helped treat the cause rather than they symptoms. Wonderful article, thank you for sharing!

  • Hello Jini, How scary to read this. Please tell me, what probiotic would you recommend? I was taking a product called In-Liven. Have you heard of it, but it was so costly that I couldn’t afford it anymore. It was made from whole organic foods, no fecal matter as well as legumes. It is considered a super probiotic. Are there others here that you know of that are good?

  • Caroline – I met a woman who buys her raw milk from the same place we do and she told me that all 3 of her kids had excema, and all 3 were completely healed using 2 glasses of raw milk per day (she gives them raw milk to drink with their meals). Of course, raw milk naturally contains probiotics.

  • it is actually well known that lactobacillus sporogenes is bacillus coagulans. And it does have a history of safe use. In fact, the Japanese are the discoverers of its uses, and have used it regularly in a number of products. It is very helpful for yeast infections of the GI tract. Just as an example, Pure Encapsulations, a very reputable company, who i am NOT associated with and do not work for, specifically mentions in their literature that sporogenes was renamed as bacillus coagulans, but that many still use the older name. Not for any nefarious purpose of deceipt, but due to more familiarity with consumers.

  • Ryan – marketing spin does not make up for the fact that microbiology nomenclature is an established science. “Lactobacillus” means bacteria that are traditionally cultured in milk (lacto). Appropriating that nomenclature for a soil organism is simply incorrect.

  • Hi
    I sent a question on “ABSORB PLUS”..There was no response yet..
    How to make sure the WHEY used in Absorb Plus is free of MAP bacteria???
    thanks
    kp

  • The whey in Absorb Plus is put through a complete microbiology screen, plus of course tested for heavy metals or other contaminants. But is it put through a specific DNA test for MAP… no. I don’t even know where you’d find the lab to do such a test. So obviously, the best source of whey would be pature-fed, organic, raw milk. But then that would truly put the price through the roof. I am looking at this though, as a “Premium” version of the product, so perhaps in the future…

  • Jini
    THanks a lot for the reply on MAP in ABSORB PLUS..
    May i know how whey is produced from milk..Is it undergoing high temp. process?I heard boiling milk will kill MAP..(not pasteruization)..please explain..
    Also when you follow the protocol, how much time it took for complete healing of crohns?Are you able to digest normal food these days..thanks for the reply

    kp

  • KP – this post should answer your questions:

    http://blog.listentoyourgut.com/is-whey-protein-isolate-healthy/

    For myself, I did The IBD Remission Diet for 7 weeks. I was 99 lbs when I started and unable to get out of bed for longer than a few minutes at a time. I could not even walk one block. By the end, I was 135 lbs and working out at the gym 3x/week – which I rode my bike to.

    COMPLETE healing of IBD however, involves also addressing the emotional factors that are causing such stress and unhealthy patterns in your life. And we have done lots of teleseminars on this aspect:

    http://shoppe.listentoyourgut.com/jinis-special-interviews/

  • This looks to have been published during the same month as this article, and it gave me more confidence about a probiotic I just purchased that contains B. coagulans: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726964/

    I read through some of the references at the bottom of the article, and was left feeling pretty positive. Perhaps you could do a reprise article, now that so much time has passed?

  • It usually refers to Bacillus coagulans, but is really just a term that means a probiotic that produces spores. This information/translation can be found all over the Web. I don’t see why anyone would try to deceive. Most people don’t know the difference. Some people are sensitive to spore producers and need to know if they are an ingredient, so they can avoid anything with this in it.

  • Can you suggest how to find reputabe source (brand) probiotic formulations for women targeting women only health issues plus addition of immune boosting strains.

    1. Hello D,

      Thank you for your inquiry. The only brand of probiotics we trust through extensive research is Natren brand. You can see the ones we recommend here: http://shoppe.listentoyourgut.com/shop-by-probiotics/
      Other recommendations that may be helpful for womens health problems are diet, as there is a lot of hormones in foods these days, and depending on symptoms this may be helpful as well: http://listentoyourgut.com/symptoms/56/pms-premenstrual-syndrome.html

      Please let us know what other questions you have.

      Kind Regards,
      Rachel
      Customer Care

  • Hi. I am glad to find your information on bacillus coagulants. I am suffering from the use of these bacterias. I used to drink kefir as needed but then wanted to emiminate dairy from my diet and discovered kombucha. I began drinking organic kombucha from KEVITA and GT. I didn’t even bother to research what probiotics they used. I thought probiotics were all the same. My hair fell out rapidly. I also started a new shampoo right before it began to fall out so I thought maybe it was that. I was also in the RN program 4 semester so my doctor said it was stress. I drank one kombucha a day since December. My hair fell out in February after dying before that.
    I never thought it was the probiotics I was taking. Even saying that sounds crazy because probiotics are supposed to be good. I figured it out because I have vaginal and anal itch that does not go away and has gotten worse. I thought maybe I have too much bacteria and have caused an infection or maybe my gut bacteria came out in feces and into a cut around my anus and caused a skin infection. Bottom line is I then researched which probiotics are used and saw bacillus coagulants. I never heard of that and it didn’t sound like any probiotic I’ve heard of. I couldn’t find any research on it. I discovered it produces spores in the intestines and they migrate to the lymph system. Turns out that as the infection got so bad, the day I realized it was the probiotics, I had to have my daughter pick me up from my run because my lymph nodes in my ground are so inflamed and painful. So this becreria is killing me. I also had severe flu three times during the course of the kombucha use. Anthrax is in the same class as these coagulants and the symptoms are flu like. I was so sick I thought I was going to die. No natura remedies would work. I finally got better after drinking ecchenasia tea. I find I have to keep drinking it to prevent myself from getting sick again. I still wake up with a sore throats so I drink it to keep the symptoms away. This bacillus coagulants is chemical warfare and I need to know how to get them out of my body asap!!!!

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