From kombucha to kimchi to kefir, the connection between certain foods and gut health is a hot topic in nutrition right now. And this trend is more than a gut feeling: Americans’ interest in learning more about prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics and the gut microbiome has grown significantly over the past decade. IFIC’S 2021 Food and Health Survey found that more people were trying to consume probiotics and prebiotics in 2021 compared with just one year earlier. But to what extent do Americans prioritize gut health? How familiar are we with food components like pre-, pro-, post- and synbiotics? What products are we choosing, and why? This survey took a deeper dive.
- Nearly one in four survey respondents (24%) said digestive health is the most important aspect of their overall health.
- About one-third (32%) said they actively try to consume probiotics; of those consumers, 60% try to consume probiotics at least once a day and 24% try to consume them multiple times a day.
- There is a knowledge gap between where people commonly seek out prebiotics and probiotics and where these products are actually found.
- People are most likely to seek out more information on pre-, pro-, post- and/or synbiotics from their healthcare provider.
Nearly one in four respondents (24%) said digestive health is the most important aspect of their overall health. In particular, people under age 45, those making over $80,000 per year and those with college degrees were more likely to put digestive health on their top pedestal. Nearly half (48%) said that digestive health is important to them, but that other aspects of their health are more important.
Most Americans are familiar with probiotics. Two in three respondents (67%) said they were familiar with probiotics, and 32% said they actively try to consume them. Fewer were familiar with synbiotics (33% said they were unfamiliar with them and 37% had never heard of them before), postbiotics (35% said they were unfamiliar with them and 30% had never heard of them before) and prebiotics (32% said they were unfamiliar with them and 18% had never heard of them before).
Gut health tops the list of reasons for consuming probiotics. Just over half (51%) of survey-takers who consume probiotics said they do so to support their gut health, followed by supporting general health and wellness (38%) and to support immune health (33%). A smaller fraction (13%) said they consume probiotics to support their mental or emotional health, with those under age 45 more likely to say this than older age groups.
On the contrary, among those who said they were familiar with probiotics but don’t actively try to consume them, their top reasons were having more important priorities when it comes to food choices (29%) and believing that products with probiotics are too expensive (23%). Nearly one in five (19%) said they don’t consume probiotics because they don’t know which foods or beverages are sources of probiotics, with people ages 65 and over more likely to say this than those ages 45–64.
People are somewhat confused about sources of prebiotics and probiotics. Those who actively try to consume prebiotics and/or probiotics were asked about where they most commonly seek them out. Interestingly, the same food sources—yogurt and/or kefir, fruits and vegetables, and dietary supplements—rose to the top of the most sought-after sources for prebiotics and probiotics. It is important to note that both prebiotics and probiotics are not necessarily found in the products mentioned. For example, over half (54%) of probiotics consumers and 38% of prebiotics consumers said they looked to yogurt or kefir as a source; in reality, while yogurt and kefir are sources of probiotics, they are not consistent sources of prebiotics. The second-most sought-after source of prebiotics and probiotics was fruits and vegetables, even though probiotics are not often found in fruits and vegetables.
Survey results were derived from online interviews of 1,000 adults conducted from March 4th to March 9th, 2022, by Lincoln Park Strategies. They were weighted to ensure proportional representation of the U.S. population, with a margin of error of ±3.1 points at the 95% confidence level.