How To Fight The Common Cold with Certain Probiotics
Now that the common cold season is upon us, it’s time to take action against developing the characteristic sniffles, sneezes, and scratchy throat. A new study suggests certain probiotics can reduce your risk of having to fight this viral nuisance, but which probiotics seem to work best?
Not all probiotics are the same
Many studies have been in the news concerning the pros and cons of probiotics and how these beneficial bacteria can help prevent and manage a number of symptoms and diseases. Although much has been written about how probiotics can help with various gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease, they also can be helpful against the common cold.
In this latest study, for example, a multicenter team explored the effect of Bifidobacterium lactis subsp. lactis BI-04 in healthy adults. This probiotic was compared with two others, which were given together: Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and B. animalis subsp. lactis BI-07.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included 241 men and 224 women (average age 35 years) who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Each group followed the program for 150 days.
- Group 1 took 2 billion CFUs (colony forming units, which is how probiotics are measured) of BI-04
- Group 2 took 5 billion CFUs of a combination of NCFM and BI-07
- Group 3 took a placebo
At the end of the trial period, the researchers found that participants in group 1 had a 27 percent reduced risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection than did those in group 3. Individuals who took the combination of probiotics also demonstrated less risk (19%), but this was not a significant difference. In addition:
- The average time until an episode of the common cold appeared was 2.5 months in the placebo group compared with 3.2 months in the BI-04 group and 3.4 months in the NCFM plus BI-07 group
- Participants in the combination probiotic group undertook significantly more physical activity (8.5%) than did individuals in the BI-04 group (6.7%) or the placebo (where there was a decline of 10%)
The take-home message
The researchers, who fared from Griffith University, the Australian Institute of Sport, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney, and DuPont Nutrition & Health, concluded that “The positive effects of probiotics supplementation appear to extend beyond individuals considered to have a high susceptibility to illness” and that “NCFM & BI-07 supplementation may be a useful nutritional adjunct to reduce the negative effects of illness on patterns of physical activity.”
In other words, probiotics—at least the ones examined in this study—appear to help reduce the risk of developing the common cold in otherwise healthy adults. Previous research has indicated that probiotics also are effective in reducing the common cold among infants.
To help prevent the common cold for yourself and your family, the use of probiotics along with typically recommended precautions such as frequent hand washing and a nutritious diet, are suggested.
West NP et al. Probiotic supplementation for respiratory and gastrointestinal illness symptoms in healthy physically active individuals. Clinical Nutrition 2013 Oct. Epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1016/j.clnu.2013.10.002