Daily supplementation of specific strains of probiotic bacteria during the winter period was shown to reduce incidence and duration of typical cold symptoms, such as runny nose, fever and cough, in pre-school children. The full study is published in the journal Pediatrics.
Building on numerous studies showing that probiotics do not only affect the function and health of the gut, but can benefit overall health and even prevent some diseases, a team of researchers from the US, China and Finland looked into the prophylactic effects of probiotics on coughing, runny nose, fever and antibiotic use in young children. For that purpose, 326 healthy children, aged 3-5 years, were recruited in Jinhua city, China. The study was a so called double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention study in which the children were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a placebo group (receiving a product looking and tasting similar to the test products but without any probiotic bacteria), a group receiving test product A containing the probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM or a group receiving test product B containing the aforementioned strain combined with Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07. None of the children, parents or research personnel administering the product knew which group the children belonged to. The placebo and test products were given to the children twice daily over a period of six months. Test drinks were prepared freshly each time by mixing the contents of a sachet with 120 ml of 1% fat milk. The sachet contained either 1 g of powdered sucrose (placebo), 1 g of sucrose plus L Acidophilus NCFM (test product A) or 1 g sucrose plus L Acidophilus NCFM combined with B animalis subsp lactis Bi-07 (test product B). Test drinks were sensorially indistinguishable. Over the entire period of probiotic consumption, the frequency and duration of cough, fever and runny nose were monitored by the children’s parents or study partners.
Analysis of the collected information revealed that the incidence of fever in children receiving the test products was reduced by 53-72% compared to the placebo group. Also, coughing and runny nose incidence were reduced by 41-62% and 28-58%, respectively, in children supplemented with the probiotic products compared to the placebo group. Moreover, the duration of these symptoms was reduced by 32-58% and the incidence of antibiotic use was up to 84% lower in the supplemented children. The combination of the two probiotic strains yielded better results in all symptoms tested.
The researchers concluded that daily supplementation with specific probiotics seems to be a safe, effective winter prophylaxis against the common cold in healthy young children. More pronounced effects may be achieved with defined combinations of probiotic strains.
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