The New York Times suggests a probiotic can treat obesity—the data doesn’t

The New York Times suggests a probiotic can treat obesity—the data doesn’t

Enlarge (credit:
GettyDogukan Keskinkilic
)

Adding to the steaming pile of unsubstantiated hype over
probiotics
, the New York Times ran an uncritical article this
week suggesting that
a probiotic of heat-killed bacteria can treat obesity
.

Of course, the data behind
the story
does not suggest that. In fact, the study is so small
and the data so noisy and indirect, it’s impossible to come to
any conclusions about efficacy. There’s also the nit-picky
complaint that the study deals with dead bacteria, while probiotics
are generally defined as being live
bacteria
. More importantly, the study was authored by
researchers with a clear financial stake in the treatment
succeeding. They hold a patent on the treatment and have started a company based on it—two
details the New York Times seems to have forgotten to mention.

Microbiome madness

In many ways, the study is pretty typical of those on
probiotics. The field is riddled with underpowered and/or
poor-quality studies that use a wide mix of methods, metrics, and
surrogate endpoints—that is, stand-ins for actual clinical
outcomes, like measuring tumor shrinkage rather than actual cancer
survival to assess a new therapy. According to a recent review
of probiotics
, the field’s hard-to-compare studies form a
mucky mess, “collectively leading to conflicting, ambiguous, and
debatable overall conclusions.”

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
The New York Times suggests a probiotic can treat obesity—the data doesn’t