In the world of probiotics, growing competition has caused some manufacturers and retailers to resort to gimmickry, making false or misleading claims to gain an edge. The truth is that most commercial probiotics are simply haphazard collections of microbes that are not assembled with collaborative effects in mind, often fail to specify microbial strains, and some provide such low bacterial counts as to be inconsequential.

So it is refreshing to come across the occasional probiotic product that employs unique insights. I am not in the habit of hawking commercial products but, every so often, a product emerges that is clearly superior and yields greater effects. Over the past year, I’ve gotten to know the founders of the probiotic company, BiotiQuest, Martha Carlin and Raul Cano, PhD. These are two serious scientifically-minded people who bring rational science to the formulation of probiotics, a surprisingly uncommon thing. This product, Sugar Shift, incorporates the concept of microbial “collaboration” via “guilds” or “consortia,” a collection of microbes that work together to generate specific health benefits for the host (you).

Martha brings a serious need to understand the science of the microbiome, ever since her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She recognized that the pharmaceutical “solutions” for Parkinson’s disease were not solutions at all, only reducing some of the symptoms such as tremor. But the best that the pharmaceutical industry provides has absolutely no effect on halting progression of the disease—people with the condition continue to deteriorate, losing control over gait, movement, and memory. She is therefore laser-focused on understanding the role of the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome on neurological function.

Dr. Cano has a 40-year history of academic microbiology, with a special focus on microbial “guilds” or “consortia,” i.e., understanding how microbial species “collaborate” through such phenomena as shared metabolites. In other words, microbes do not live in isolation but, like humans, live in communities. A consortium of collaborating species is, for instance, more likely to take up long-term residence and provide beneficial metabolites and effects to the host than a species in isolation. Incidentally, Dr. Cano is also expert in the fascinating world of paleomicrobiology, i.e., studying the microbiome of ancient cultures (e.g., through study of coprolites or fossilized fecal material) .

Martha and Raul wanted to formulate a consortium of microbes that collaborate to reduce blood sugar via consumption of intestinal glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Even more interestingly, they wanted a consortium of microbes that converted sugars to the non-absorbable sugar mannitol that, in an experimental model, dissolved the alpha-synuclein protein that builds up in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease and is believed to be the cause of neurological disability.

We therefore asked 20 non-diabetic people in my Inner Circle to take one capsule twice per day of the Sugar Shift (that Martha provided without cost) and track fasting blood glucoses via finger stick for 4 weeks. Result: a reduction in a.m. fasting blood glucose of 9.8 mg/dl, a magnitude of effect that matches that of the popular drug for type 2 diabetes, metformin. Several also experienced a modest quantity of weight loss. In other words, the collaborative consortium of microbes in Sugar Shift appears to reduce blood glucose effectively and, notably, without evidence of side-effects. Anecdotally, additional people, both type 2 diabetics and non-diabetics, have added Sugar Shift and have reported similar reductions in fasting (and postprandial, or after-meal) blood sugars.

A clinical trial in people with Parkinson’s disease has not yet been performed but Martha has shared Sugar Shift with several people with Parkinson’s disease and she tells me that she is convinced that favorable effects are experienced. Her husband’s gait and balance, for instance, improved such that he no longer requires a walker—partial remission? This could be a huge positive development for people with Parkinson’s disease, so a clinical trial clearly needs to be performed.

To my knowledge, Sugar Shift is the only commercial probiotic available that incorporates consortium effects to yield greater health benefits. Commercial probiotics have plenty of room for improvement, so it is refreshing to come across a product that stands apart from the haphazard collection of products that presently dominate.

*I have no financial relationship with Martha Carlin, Dr. Raul Cano, or with BiotiQuest. It’s simply a cool product with some good people behind it.