Probiotic supplements have been used around the world for at least half a century, but almost half (49 percent) of Americans indicate that they have never heard of them, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive® for Florastor®, the world’s top-selling probiotic, now being launched widely in the United States.

Derived from a Greek term meaning, "for life," probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "live micro-organisms, which, when administered in proper amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."

Florastor, which utilizes a beneficial, clinically-studied form of a freeze-dried yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii), has been sold internationally for more than 50 years worldwide and is currently being discovered by Americans as new scientific research shows its effectiveness in aiding in the prevention and treatment of intestinal issues, particularly diarrhea related to medications, travel and pathogens (such as recurring C. diff-associated disease).

"The probiotics category is one where the U.S. is behind the rest of the world, and that’s because U.S. doctors have just recently been conducting the clinical research to gauge and prove their efficacy," says Patricia Raymond M.D., noted board-certified gastroenterologist, author and assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. "In recent years, a number of respectable studies have definitively confirmed the health benefits of probiotics, many of which are for S. boulardii, and as American physicians are passing this new information on to their patients, consumers are starting to embrace the concept, particularly in the prevention and management of intestinal issues where traditional treatments are not completely effective."

The Florastor survey, which was fielded to approximately 2,300 U.S. men and women (aged 18 and over), offers insight into current U.S. knowledge levels and attitudes toward probiotic supplements and intestinal health. These are some highlights of the findings:

Only one in three U.S. adults (35 percent) indicates that they have not only heard of probiotics, but know what probiotics are:

- 16 percent indicate they have heard of probiotics, but don’t know what they are specifically; another 16 percent indicate they know what probiotics are, but have never taken them
- 19 percent indicate they know what probiotics are and have actually taken them
- Women were more likely then men to have taken probiotics (23 percent vs. 15 percent)
- Residents of the Western U.S. are more likely to have taken probiotics (26 percent vs. 19 percent of those in the Northeast and in the South, and 14 percent of those in the Midwest)
- Though many types of probiotics exist, in general, it seems that many respondents are familiar with probiotics mostly associated with yogurt or acidophilus (among those who have taken probiotics, - 54 percent indicate that they have bought lactobacillus yogurt previously; 47 percent have taken acidophilus before)

About one in five U.S. adults (21 percent) indicate a willingness to take probiotics daily to improve their intestinal health:

- 20 percent indicate that if they knew probiotics could help prevent abdominal discomfort, diarrhea or intestinal side effects related to certain medications, they would purchase or take one in the future along with their prescribed medication
- 51 percent said they would take a probiotic to prevent stomach/intestinal issues related to travel

Nineteen percent of those who have taken probiotics indicate they have taken them to prevent side effects from medications:

- One in five U.S. adults (20 percent) indicate they have experienced intestinal side effects that may be related to medications
- 16 percent of U.S. adults indicate they experienced intestinal side effects, which may have been related to taking antibiotics specifically
- Three percent of U.S. adults who have taken probiotics indicate they take them daily as a preventative, even if they are not on medication

More than half of U.S. adults (57 percent) agree that if they knew that probiotics and over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications performed equally well for travel-related intestinal issues, they would be more likely to try a probiotic than a traditional remedy:

- Two out of five U.S. adults (39 percent) indicate they always pack over-the-counter medications, such as Imodium® or Pepto-Bismol®, when they travel outside the U.S.
- About half of U.S. adults (51 percent) agree they would take a probiotic to prevent stomach/intestinal issues related to travel; about half (51 percent) also indicate they would pack a probiotic to treat stomach/intestinal issues related to travel so they would not have to go out and buy something
- Women are more likely than men to indicate experiencing stomach/intestinal issues while traveling (64 percent vs. 58 percent)

Florastor has been clinically tested and sold internationally for more than 50 years and is the number-one selling probiotic worldwide, available on a limited basis in the United States since 2003, and now more widely available. Florastor® Kids was first introduced in the U.S. in 2005 and is also more available now. Saccharomyces boulardii (Florastor®) is currently the only probiotic mentioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the management of C. diff-associated diarrhea ("Saccharomyces boulardii: a valuable adjunct in recurrent Clostridium difficile disease?" WHO Drug Information Vol. 9, No. 1, 1995).

Survey Methodology:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus service on behalf of Florastor® between December 15 to 19, 2006 among 2,313 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for region, age within gender, education, household income and race/ethnicity were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

With a pure probability sample of 2,313 one could say with a ninety-five percent probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points. Sampling error for data based on sub-samples would be higher and may vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Written from a news release by .