Milk fortified with probiotics appears to modestly reduce the rate and severity of respiratory infections in children in daycare facilities, according to a new double blind study.

Finnish researchers randomised 571 healthy children (aged 1-6 years) in 18 daycare centers in Helsinki to receive milk with or without Lactobacillus GG. During the seven month trial, the children consumed an average of 260 mL/day of milk.

After adjusting for age, the children taking the probioticlaced milk had 11 per cent fewer days’ absences due to illness compared with children in the placebo control group.

The researchers also found a 17 per cent reduction in the number of children with upper respiratory infection plus complications and lower respiratory tract infection among those consuming Lactobacillus GG. There was also a 19 per cent reduction in antibiotic use for respiratory infection among these children.

More studies are needed, but results such as in this investigation suggest that probiotics such as Lactobacillus GG show promise as an inexpensive and effective way of boosting childhood immunity (BMJ, 2001; 322: 1318-9,1327-9).

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