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Monday 22 July 2013

Are Probiotics good for you?

By Bronwyn Ward

Probiotics are bacteria that are either the same as or similar to microorganisms found naturally in the human body. Also referred to as "good bacteria," probiotics are found in oral products, such as dietary supplements and yogurt. There is conflicting evidence demonstrating the benefits of taking probiotics. Here are some positive results:

Probiotics May Help Prevent Antibiotic-Related Diarrhoea
A review published May 31, 2013, in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that probiotics are safe and effective for preventing Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhoea (CDAD) in children and adults taking antibiotics. In 23 trials examined, enrolling a total of 4213 participants, probiotic use was associated with a significant 64% reduction in risk. On the basis of the overall evidence, the reviewers had moderate confidence in this large relative risk reduction. "Although probiotics are clearly superior to placebo or no treatment for preventing CDAD, further head-to-head trials are warranted to distinguish optimal strains and dosages," the review authors conclude.

Probiotics During Pregnancy May Ward Off Eczema, Food Allergy
In research reported in the October 18, 2012, issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, infants whose mothers took probiotics during pregnancy and while breast-feeding were less likely to develop eczema. The mothers all had a history of allergy, so their children were at high risk. About 30% of infants whose mothers took probiotics developed eczema compared with 79% of infants whose mothers did not. However, the study found no difference in the incidence of other allergies at age 2 years, including milk, wheat, soy, and dog and cat dander. And in a separate review published online April 17, 2013, the authors write, "Twenty-three randomized, placebo-controlled intervention studies regarding the clinical effect of probiotic supplementation on development of [food] allergy and eczema in particular have been published. Around 60% of the studies show a favourable effect decreasing the risk of eczema during the first years of life. The remaining studies fail to show an effect." 

Probiotics Affect Brain Activity
A new study in the June 2013 issue of Gastroenterology provides the first evidence in humans that probiotics in the diet can modulate brain activity. In a proof-of-concept study using functional MRI, researchers found that women who regularly consumed probiotic-containing yogurt showed altered activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.

Allergic Rhinitis Eased by Antihistamine + Probiotic
In other allergy research, supplementing the antihistamine levocetirizine with the probiotic Lactobacillus johnsonii EM1 effectively alleviated the symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis in a group of Taiwanese children, according to a study published in the July 2012 issue of the International Journal of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology. The study was somewhat small, with just 62 children. In addition, the "open-label design makes it difficult to compare the clinical response between the 2 treatment groups, but any bias may have been decreased by using the crossover method," the researchers write. Another issue to be resolved is whether the benefit will extend beyond 12 weeks.

Article and research provided by Medscape

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