HSN – New research on probiotics, digestive enzymes, and vitamin D

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Health Scoop News 📑 – New research on probiotics, digestive enzymes, and vitamin D

I always have my nose in new health research, so I’m sharing some of the most relevant studies with you in regular editions of “Health Scoop News.”

[This news summary is a bit reminiscent of my old “This week in science for holistic health” newsletters that I used to do circa 2016 (I deleted most, but here’s one post I kept live), as well as the rEATsearch podcast I used to co-host.]

These are my top three study picks (comment below to tell me what health topics/niches are best for you!). All are very high quality studies (most are studies that review and analyze data from several previous studies, not just one or two).

These studies were all published in the past month or so.

1 – Probiotics for better mineral absorption

Study title: Probiotic-driven advancement: Exploring the intricacies of mineral absorption in the human body

This is a review and summary of 100 previous studies published between 2017-2023.

Here’s some background info:

  • The gut microbiota is the “trillions of microorganisms that reside in the” gastrointestinal tract.
  • Probiotics are “viable microorganisms that thrive naturally in the gut and, when administered in adequate amounts, offer beneficial effects on human health.” . . . “They are commonly found in certain foods and dietary supplements as well.”
  • Probiotics can “colonize the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), host tissues, and the skin and beneficially alter the microbiota, helping to maintain intestinal bacteria balance. Probiotics are also implicated in the gut-brain axis, sustaining mental health and enhancing immune function.”
  • Probiotics can “influence mineral absorption in the body. Some strains of probiotics have been found to enhance the absorption of certain minerals, while others may inhibit or have no effect on mineral absorption. However, the mechanisms through which probiotics interact with mineral absorption are not yet fully understood and may vary depending on the specific strain of probiotics and the type of mineral.”
  • “It is important to note that the effects of probiotics on mineral absorption can vary depending on many factors, including the specific probiotic strain, the dose and duration of probiotic supplementation, the presence of other nutrients or dietary components, and individual differences in the gut microbiota and overall health.”
  • “Most individuals can provide the body with sufficient amounts of vital minerals through a balanced diet. However, an increasing number of people are at risk of mineral deficiencies due to particular life circumstances (e.g., patients with chronic diseases, women during pregnancy, the elderly, vegetarians, vegans, etc.) or various lifestyle habits (e.g., poor sleeping habits, unhealthy dietary choices, etc.).”

Here’s what the researchers concluded:

  • There are many ways that gut microbes can help the body absorb more minerals from foods and supplements:
    • – “By producing enzymes that can break down complex minerals, making them more accessible to the host for absorption,” e.g., phytases are enzymes that break down phytic acid that allows Ca, Mg, and Zn to be more available for absorption in the small intestine.
    • 2 – “By altering the gut environment.” “Gut microbes ferment dietary fibre into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that “increases the surface area accessible for mineral absorption,” plus “SCFAs can lower the pH of the gut, which can increase the solubility of certain minerals (Mg, Ca, Se, Zn, etc.), making them more accessible for the host to absorb.”
    • 3 – By affecting “the expression of genes involved in mineral absorption in the host cells.”
    • Other mechanisms may include improving intestinal mobility, antioxidant, and/or anti-inflammatory actions.
    • These “complex interactions between gut microbiota and minerals affect nutrient status and overall health.”
  • In summary, the efficacy of probiotics in improving mineral absorption can be influenced by strain variants, dosage, timing of administration, and individual uniqueness. Considering these factors when selecting and administering probiotics can optimize their potential benefits on mineral absorption. However, it is important to highlight that more research is needed to fully understand the complex interactions between mineral absorption and probiotics intake to provide specific recommendations.”

In other words, according to this study, certain probiotics can help the gut absorb more minerals from foods and supplements, and this can be helpful for people who are low in certain minerals.

There are many ways this happens, and there is a lot more to discover, but for now, three mechanisms seem to be via:

  1. producing enzymes
  2. producing SCFAs
  3. influencing genes in the cells of the lining of the gut

For more information, here is a link to the study: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590157523005102?via%3Dihub

2 – Enzyme supps for dyspepsia (upper GI distress)

Study title: Efficacy of digestive enzyme supplementation in functional dyspepsia: A monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial

This is a high quality clinical trial because it was:

  • Placebo-controlled (some participants got a digestive enzyme and others got a placebo; this allowed researchers to compare the two groups to each other to see if the enzyme worked better than a “pretend enzyme,” and which group had more adverse events).
  • Randomized (the participants didn’t choose whether they got placebo or not, nor were they placed into a group based on any criteria; they were randomly assigned to a group) (For this study of 120 people, there were 60 participants in each group).
  • Double-blind (the participants didn’t know whether they were getting a digestive enzyme or a placebo, and the investigators also didn’t know whether they were giving an enzyme or placebo; because both the participants and investigators were “blinded” to the therapies, the trial was double-blind).

Here’s some background info:

  • Dyspepsia feels like bloating, early satiety, a postprandial sense of fullness, nausea, anorexia, heartburn, regurgitation and frequent belching.”
  • Dyspepsia is characterized by episodic or persistent abdominal pain or discomfort of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Its onset has been linked with a deficiency or dysfunction of digestive enzymes.
  • “Levels of functional dyspepsia vary considerably around the world, with high statistics overall (10–40 %) in Western countries and the lowest numbers (5–30 %) being found in Asia. The prevalence of functional dyspepsia is greater in women than in men.”
  • “Known risk factors for the development of functional dyspepsia are:
    • GI infections (mainly related to the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori),
    • traveler’s diarrhea,
    • antibiotic use,
    • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) intake,
    • early environmental microbial exposure,
    • smoking,
    • overweight and obesity, and
    • stress perceived as psychosocial states (i.e., anxiety and depression).”
  • “The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness and tolerability of the supplementation of a normal diet with a multi-enzyme blend obtained from fungal fermentation, in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, clinical trial.”
  • All 120 participants were “generally healthy adults with functional dyspepsia.”
  • Enzyme vs placebo:
    • Participants in the blinded treatment group took two of these per day (one before lunch and one before dinner): “Each vegetable capsule of Poolzyme® Multi supplement contains 200 mg of a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme blend (i.e., protease, amylase, lipase, cellulase and lactase), 95 mg of calcium phosphate, 95 mg of hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) and 5 mg of silicon dioxide.”
    • Participants in the blinded placebo group took two of these per day (one before lunch and one before dinner): “Placebo in the same format consisted of capsules, making it indistinguishable in color and flavor from the food supplement, and consisted of inert excipients (maltodextrins 200 mg, calcium phosphate 95 mg, HPMC 95 mg, and silicon dioxide 5 mg).”

Here’s what the researchers conclude:

  • “In conclusion, treatment with digestive enzymes was found to be effective in the reduction of functional dyspepsia symptoms and in the improvement of sleep quality, and is well-tolerated.”
  • “These results are consistent with most literature data that report an improvement in dyspeptic symptoms with digestive enzyme supplementation.”
  • “If these promising results are confirmed in other randomized clinical trials, the use of digestive enzyme supplementation could represent a useful strategy to decrease the symptoms of functional dyspepsia, to be included in the treatment options in published guidelines on dyspepsia.”

In other words, this well-designed randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed improvements in both sleep and gut symptoms in those with dyspepsia who take two digestive enzymes per day (one before lunch and one before dinner) for two months.


For a list of dozens of credible sites to find health information, plus some PubMed tips, download your free guide here:


3 – Vitamin D supps for elite athletes

Study title: Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation in Elite Athletes: A Systematic Review

This is a high quality review of 14 randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trials that looked at effects of vitamin D supplementation in elite athletes.

Here’s some background info:

  • “The percentage of adult Americans with vitamin D deficiency ranges from 36% to 57%, and as few as 2% of North Americans achieve the recommended vitamin D daily intake.”
  • “The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in athletes worldwide follows the prevalence of nonathletic populations and is becoming a growing concern as it pertains to athletic performance, aerobic endurance, and injury risk.”
  • “Vitamin D has gained popularity in the medical community in recent decades as a hormone-like chemical that influences between 5% and 10% of the total genome.
  • Vitamin D deficiency, . . . can have detrimental effects on bone, muscle, respiratory, neurological, and respiratory health. . . . vitamin D deficiency [is defined as] less than 50 nmol/L serum concentration.”
  • “The objective of this systematic review was to analyze the current body of literature regarding the effect of vitamin D supplementation on (1) aerobic capacity; (2) anaerobic measures, such as strength, speed, and anaerobic power; (3) serum biomarkers of inflammation; and (4) bone health. We hypothesized that vitamin D supplementation would have a positive effect on all 4 of these outcomes.”

Here’s what the researchers conclude:

  • “This systematic review demonstrates that oral vitamin D supplementation is an effective method of improving serum 25(OH)D levels.”
  • “Results of this systematic review indicated that the greatest benefit of vitamin D supplementation in elite athletes may be improving aerobic endurance, anaerobic power, and strength. More research is needed to determine the effect of vitamin D supplementation on bone health and injury risk in this population.”
  • “The benefits of vitamin D supplementation in athletes remain unclear and inconsistent. However, its greatest benefit in this population may be improving aerobic endurance, anaerobic power, and strength. Given the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in this population, supplementation in the winter months should be considered, especially for those in geographic areas that receive less sunlight. Future studies should investigate the benefits of long-term supplementation towards outcomes such as injury prevention.”

In other words, many people are low in vitamin D, including elite athletes. Taking vitamin D supplements orally (via drops or tablets/caplets) helps to increase blood levels of vitamin D and are linked to better outcomes for athletes specifically in the areas of:

  • aerobic endurance,
  • anaerobic power, and
  • strength.

Vitamin D supplements should be considered when there is less sunlight (via geography and seasonality).

For more information, here is a link to the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10768611/


Signing off and toasting: To keeping up with the latest and greatest scientific research in nutrition, fitness, and health coaching!


Over to you


Do you have a specific question about any of these new studies?

Are you looking for a easy-to-understand study summary that you can share with your audience and clients?

What health topic/niche is most important to you?

Let me know in the comments below!


What's the latest health research for your nutrition, fitness, or health coaching practice?

Find out in the weekly Health Scoop News 📑email updates. See some of the latest studies (with Leesa's "in other words" explainers) here. Sign up if you want to be first to know new research:

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I'm Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N.
Health writer – Blogging expert – Research nerd.

I help health and wellness professionals build their authority with scientific health content. They want to stand out in the crowded, often unqualified, market of entrepreneurs. I help them establish trust with their audiences, add credibility to their services, and save them a ton of time so they don’t have to do the research or writing themselves. To work with me, click here.


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