The National Institute of Health reports that constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints affecting about 42 million Americans. Low defecation frequency (2–4 d/week) and abdominal discomfort are hallmark signs of constipation. A specific probiotic strain may help provide relief.

A 2015 study featured in the British Journal of Nutrition evaluated the efficacy of Bifodobacterium animalis (BB-12®) on two primary outcomes: defecation frequency and abdominal discomfort. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial featured a total of 1,248 healthy constipated adults. For a four-week period, the individuals were assigned to take B. animalis probiotic at either one billion CFU, 10 billion CFU, or placebo daily.

In both the one billion and ten billion CFU groups there was a statistically significant improvement in defecation frequency compared with placebo at all weeks. Over the four-week trial, frequency of defecation in both of the probiotic arms went from an average of three days per week to an average of four days per week. Gastrointestinal discomfort improved in both the probiotic and placebo groups.

The researchers reported that the high placebo effect with GI discomfort was likely because their criteria for being a responder was too broad. Because the results were similar in both the one billion and ten billion groups, the researchers concluded that a ceiling was reached with the one billion dose indicating that higher doses are not necessary.

While the high placebo effect regarding improved discomfort is curious, the increase in defecation frequency is certainly worth noting. Just as with all probiotic research, more investigation regarding strain and strain combinations is needed. The fact that 1 billion CFU was as effective as 10 billion CFU of B. animalis (BB-12) is noteworthy. Of course, dosage levels may vary with other strains or strain combinations and in other clinical situations.


Eskesen D, Jespersen L, Michelsen B, et al. Effect of the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, BB-12 ®, on defecation frequency in healthy subjects with low defecation frequency and abdominal discomfort: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.