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Probiotic Yogurt Drink Reduces Infections in Children


You might think of a probiotic yogurt drink as medicine that tastes good, but don’t tell children that! Results of a large probiotic clinical trial show that daycare children who consumed a flavored yogurt drink every day developed fewer common infections than children who did not.

Beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, have been shown to provide health benefits in children, including a reduction in infections and the number of school days lost because of sickness. Much of this research, however, has been done outside the United States in conditions that did not simulate everyday living.

Researchers at Georgetown University School of Medicine undertook the challenge and studied the health impact of a probiotic yogurt-like drink, DanActive, in daycare children in a more realistic venue. Lead author Daniel Merenstein, MD, director of research in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University, noted that “we were interested in a study that resembled how children in the US consume drinks that are stored in home refrigerators and consumed without study personnel observation.”

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The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., involved 638 healthy children aged three to six, all of whom attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a strawberry yogurt-like drink every day. Some of the drinks contained the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) and the others did not. Parents were also asked to record how many yogurt drinks their child consumed and to keep notes on their child’s health.

At the end of the study, there was a 19 percent decrease in the number of common infections—e.g., ear infections, flu, diarrhea, sinusitis--among children who had consumed the yogurt drink with the probiotics than those who had the drink without the beneficial bacteria. When the researchers broke out the individual types of illness, they found that children who had the probiotic beverage had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (e.g., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (e.g., ear, sinusitis, strep).

The reduction in infections did not, however, result in fewer days lost from school. Merenstein commented that “It is my hope that safe and tolerable ways to reduce illnesses could eventually result in fewer missed school days which means fewer work days missed by parents.”

The finding that the probiotic yogurt drink reduced infections in children, however, is significant. This joins results from other studies demonstrating benefits of probiotics in children, including one published in Pediatrics in which they reduced cold and flu symptoms, another in which they eased diarrhea, and one showing they helped prevent eczema in infants. Generally, probiotics have also been shown to benefit people who have celiac disease, irritable bowel, colitis, and possibly autism.

Georgetown University Medical Center