In my work as an author, researcher, children’s health advocate, and mother of three, I’m often approached by mothers who want to know what they can do to improve their kids’ health. On behalf of these inquisitive parents, I’d like to share some research I’ve come across regarding the health benefits for children of taking probiotics on a daily basis.
It’s likely that in your local grocery store you’ve come across probiotic-packed yogurt products, and you may have even picked these up for your own family. So what exactly are probiotics? They are often referred to as “good bacteria” for the body, helping to balance the microbial environment of the digestive tract by checking the growth of “bad bacteria,” which aids digestion and increases immune function.
A study was conducted by Dr. Dan Merenstein at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in order to determine the exact benefits of drinking yogurt with probiotics. According to Dr. Merenstein, the study is thus far the largest probiotic clinical trial in the United States.
The study itself took two years, but kids in the Washington, D.C. area participated in it for 120 days, drinking yogurt on a daily basis for 90 days straight. 638 healthy children who attended school five days a week were selected for the clinical trial, drinking either a priobiotic-fortified DanActive or a placebo drink without probiotics. Dannon funded the study, but Dr. Merenstein says the study was his idea and he had full publication rights over it. Whether the results were favorable or not, he was nevertheless going to publish them.
The results were indeed favorable. According to Dr. Merenstein, in children drinking the daily probiotic, gastrointestinal infections with diarrhea and vomiting decreased by 24 percent and upper respiratory infections such as ear infections and strep throat decreased by 18 percent. These statistics, however, didn’t result in fewer missed school days.
In order to see benefits from this supplement, says Dr. Merenstein, products with probiotics needs to be eaten at least five days a week, and these products should contain at least three probiotics, whereas all yogurts contain only two.
“I’m a big believer in getting your probiotics through food. I just think the yogurt is a healthy snack,” said Dr. Merenstein. This is important to keep in mind, as children need a balanced diet with a variety of good-for-you foods, not just probiotic-fortified yogurt.
Although Dr. Merenstein’s work was large-scale, such studies regarding the health benefits of probiotics aren’t new. Another study shows that preschoolers who were given probiotic supplements twice a day were less likely to experience fevers, coughs, and runny noses than preschoolers who weren’t taking any during flu season.
There are other sources of probiotics beside yogurt products. Breast milk naturally has probiotics and there are also probiotic-fortified formulas out there for non-breastfed babies. There’s also a type of fiber called prebiotics which promotes the growth of probiotics. Certain brands of baby foods also fortify products with this supplement.
You can also pick up powdered or liquid infant and children’s probiotics at the health food store and add these to breast milk, formula, or other liquids your child is drinking. Make sure to check the container for storage instructions, which usually need to be stored in the refrigerator.
With such evidence supporting the health claims of probiotics, it is wise for parents to look into supplementing their children’s diets with probiotic products. Lucky for kids, and for parents, probiotic-rich yogurt and yogurt drinks are considered to taste great, making it the perfect healthy snack to feed kids after school or pack in their lunches.
Fox DC: Fox 5 Investigates: Probiotics. http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/investigative/fox-5-investigates-probiotics-070610
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin.