Probiotics help the young and old

Nutrition scientists are focusing on probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that can improve digestion and fight disease in the young and old.

In a colic study, 90 breastfed colicky babies took probiotics or 60 mg of the drug simethicone while their moms didn’t eat dairy products. After 28 days, the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri reduced baby crying time 74 percent compared to 26 percent for simethicone. Doctors believe probiotics reduced intestinal inflammation.

In a chronic constipation study of 45 kids under age 10, those who took Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus had less abdominal pain than those who took a magnesium oxide laxative. Doses were twice per day for four weeks. Probiotics increased bowel movements, reduced hard stools and cut the need for glycerin enemas as effectively as magnesium oxide. In a related four-week study, Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria significantly increased bowel movements in 20 constipated children aged 4 to 16, and reduced bowel incontinence and abdominal pain without side effects. There was no placebo group.

In a cold study, about 480 healthy adults took vitamins and minerals with or without Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria over two winters for a total of eight months. About the same number in each group caught a cold, but the colds averaged two days less for those who took probiotics compared to those who did not.

In a study of fats, researchers noted that this is the first trial in humans to measure how probiotics may lower risk for blood vessel and heart disease. Among 26 healthy adults, average age 42, those who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus for three weeks had fewer toxic and inflammatory blood fats compared to placebo.

In a mouth bacteria study, doctors wanted to see if probiotics could reduce the bacteria in saliva that can cause tooth decay. Two dozen healthy participants, average age 20, ate about two ounces of ice cream per day, made with or without Bifidobacterium lactis, for two 10-day cycles. After each cycle, those who ate the probiotics ice cream had significantly less of the acid-forming bacteria compared to the start of the study.

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