Probiotics & Children's Immunity

Jacob Collyer-Smith Lifestyle Writer

Many studies have suggested there is a positive link between probiotic supplementation and immunity, and this week we've seen yet another clinical trial add to this research. The new study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, observed the effects of Lactobacillus acidophilusBifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains with 50 mg vitamin C or placebo on 57 children aged 3 - 5 years old, over a period of 6 months. The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of the probiotic formula and vitamin C in the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), generally known as common colds, in children attending preschools.

The results of the study revealed that the children who received the probiotic and vitamin C combination were 33% less likely to contract URTIs and, consequently, were less likely to miss school days by 30%, when compared to the placebo group. As well as this, the probiotic and vitamin C group were less reliant on medicines, spending much less time on antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicine or nasal sprays.

children in their classroom hands raised

Back to school: evidence suggests that probiotics could reduce school absences due to infections.

Another recent study published this year in Nutrition Reviews, analysed 5 notable studies investigating the effect of prebiotics and their impact on infant immunity. The researchers concluded that there was significant evidence to suggest prebiotics can play a preventative role to decrease infections in children, as well as reduce the prescription of antibiotic treatments to children.

Studies in adults also report a positive correlation between probiotics and immunity. Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04 was found to reduce the incidence of URTIs in a group of 465 adults by 27%. We also wrote about the findings on common cold on our blog earlier in the year.

The evidence is showing that probiotics may play a role in preventing URTI infections in both children and adults. Further research is needed to identify which specific strains are most effective, but preliminary evidence suggests that probiotics could potentially cut healthcare costs and antibiotic use, as well as making us all a little healthier.

Reference: Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published online ahead of print.