A study conducted by researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, examined whether drinks that contained probiotics were useful in reducing the incidence of infections in children. Probiotics are useful microbes, which, when ingested, improve the health of an individual. Similar studies in the past had shown that drinking milk products containing probiotics was helpful in preventing diseases such as diarrhea and allergies. The present study showed that probiotic drinks were helpful, to a limited extent, in reducing illnesses due to infections in children.
Occurrence of infections is very frequent in young children, especially those who go to school or daycare centers. Illnesses caused by infections result in missed school days by children and also missed workdays by parents. The present study was conducted to evaluate whether drinking fermented milk products containing Lactobacillus casei was helpful in preventing such infections and related behavior change in children. The study was conducted on two sets of children. The first group was given DanActive® – a readily available probiotic drink – while the second group (the control group) was given a non-fermented milk product. The occurrence of infection was evaluated and compared subsequently.
• The five-month-long study involved 638 children aged between 3 and 6 years, who attended school or daycare.
• As part of the experiment, 314 children had one bottle each of DanActive® everyday for 90 days, while 324 children had a bottle each of a similar-tasting, non-fermented drink for the same duration.
• The incidence of various infections such as diarrhea, bronchitis and pneumonia was measured in both the groups.
• Change in behavior of children due to illness was also noted in both groups.
• The overall incidence of infections in children who had the probiotic drinks was 19 percent lower, compared to children who consumed the non-fermented drink.
• Incidence of gastrointestinal tract infection was 24 percent less in the probiotic group than in the control group.
• Incidence of upper respiratory tract infection was 18 percent less than in the control group; while incidence of lower respiratory tract infection was 2 percent less.
• No difference was observed in behavior change attributed to illness between both groups of children.
In the present study, the incidence of infection was assessed based on the inputs provided by parents and not clinical diagnoses by physicians. Therefore, the assessments may have been incorrect or prejudiced. Moreover, only healthy children were included in the study. A less healthy subject population may have yielded different results.
The study concludes that consuming fermented drinks containing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei everyday significantly reduces the chances of young children falling ill due to common infections, particularly stomach and intestinal infections. It is estimated that such illnesses, which are related to daycare centers and schools, cost $1.8 billion per year in the US. Regular intake of probiotic fermented drinks can thus prevent this huge cost by reducing the number of sick days that little children have. While this conclusion is limited to the above-mentioned probiotic drink, further independent studies might prove similar results with other kinds of dairy products containing probiotics.
For More Information:
Use of a Fermented Dairy Probiotic Drink Containing Lactobacillus casei to Decrease the Rate of Illness in Kids: The DRINK Study
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2010
By D. Merenstein; M. Murphy; Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC