What is a billions count & CFU?

The billions count is the number of live microorganisms present within a live cultures supplement. CFU stands for 'colony-forming units', and refers to the same thing.

When it comes to probiotics, you might assume that bigger is better. Surely a larger billion count means a better quality supplement, right? And what does the billion count actually mean, anyway?

Let's start by clarifying this somewhat confusing term.

What is a probiotic billion count?

The billions count of a probiotic supplement refers to the total number of live bacteria that are contained within each capsule or serving. So, for example, our supplement Every Day provides 5 billion live microorganisms per capsule, and this number is guaranteed until end of expiry.

What does CFU mean?

You may have also heard reference to the 'CFU'. This stands for 'colony-forming units', and is the scientific term for the number of viable bacteria within a sample; in this case, in a probiotic supplement. In other words, if a supplement has a CFU of 5 billion, it means that it contains 5 billion individual probiotic bacteria.

the billionth myth

Is a higher billion count better?

There are lots of probiotic products on the market, many of which boast very high billion counts. Whilst this is not harmful, it is not necessarily any better than a supplement with a lower CFU. It's something of a myth that a super-high billions count is superior.

It's much more important to consider the quality of probiotic sstrains - for example, whether the strains being used have been widely tested for safety and are able to reach the gut alive. Furthermore, different strains of friendly bacteria have different modes of action in the body, so it's important to take the right probiotic strain for you, rather than focus too much on the number of billions.

This is not to say that the billions count do not matter at all. In fact, when looking for the best live probiotic supplement, you want to ensure that you're getting a CFU of at least 1 billion. This is considered to be the minimum strength at which bacteria can be 'friendly' to the body. We do offer higher strength options in Every Day EXTRA (20 billion) and Every Day MAX (75 billion), for those who feel they want to try a higher billions count. But the main takeaway is that this isn't essential, and it's important to find what works for you as an individual. Quality over quantity!

For more information on billions counts, take a look at the Billions Myth on the Probiotics Learning Lab.

full range

Why not browse our full range today, and find the probiotic supplement that is best for you?

Answered by Dr Kate Stephens - PhD | Food and Microbial Sciences; Gut Microbiology (University of Reading), BSc (Hons) Medical Microbiology