Probiotic Effects on Cold and Influenza-Like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children

Garlic ToastCommentary: Fermented foods are a rich source of a wide variety of probiotics – lactic acid bacteria, a scientific fact that is well-documented. One of my favorite “reads” is the Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods, a beloved Christmas present given to me by my husband, a few years ago.

We always keep one Pickl-It in constant use, fermenting garlic, which is not only an important daily-food, but also one that helps when it comes to the occasional bout of battling colds or the flu. Since following the dietary guidelines of Weston A. Price and Nourishing Traditions, we seldom have colds or the flu, but when we do, it is garlic to the rescue!

A perfect under-the-weather lunch is a bowl of South River Miso soup into which we add a clove of crushed garlic, accompanied by a lightly-toasted slice of sourdough bread, drenched in gently-melted home-made grass-fed butter loaded with more crushed garlic.

The following is well-documented research on the benefits of probiotics on cold and flu-like symptoms:

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Probiotic Effects on Cold and Influenza-Like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children

Published online July 27, 2009

PEDIATRICS Vol. 124 No. 2 August 2009, pp. e172-e179 (doi:10.1542/peds.2008-2666)

Gregory J. Leyer, PhDa, Shuguang Li, MSb, Mohamed E. Mubasher, PhDc, Cheryl Reifer, PhDd and Arthur C. Ouwehand, PhDe

a Department of Research and Development, Danisco, Madison, Wisconsin
b Department of Preventive Medicine, Medical College of Tongji University, Shanghai, China

c Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Texas at Houston, Dallas Regional Campus, Dallas, Texas

d Department of Scientific Affairs, SPRIM USA, Frisco, Texas

e Department of Research and Development, Danisco, Kantvik, Finland

OBJECTIVE: Probiotic consumption effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration were evaluated in healthy children during the winter season.

METHODS: In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 326 eligible children (3–5 years of age) were assigned randomly to receive placebo (N = 104), Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM (N = 110), or L acidophilus NCFM in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07 (N = 112). Children were treated twice daily for 6 months.

RESULTS: Relative to the placebo group, single and combination probiotics reduced fever incidence by 53.0% (P = .0085) and 72.7% (P = .0009), coughing incidence by 41.4% (P = .027) and 62.1% (P = .005), and rhinorrhea incidence by 28.2% (P = .68) and 58.8% (P = .03), respectively. Fever, coughing, and rhinorrhea duration was decreased significantly, relative to placebo, by 32% (single strain; P = .0023) and 48% (strain combination; P < .001). Antibiotic use incidence was reduced, relative to placebo, by 68.4% (single strain; P = .0002) and 84.2% (strain combination; P < .0001). Subjects receiving probiotic products had significant reductions in days absent from group child care, by 31.8% (single strain; P = .002) and 27.7% (strain combination; P < .001), compared with subjects receiving placebo treatment.

CONCLUSION: Daily dietary probiotic supplementation for 6 months was a safe effective way to reduce fever, rhinorrhea, and cough incidence and duration and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness, for children 3 to 5 years of age.

Key Words: Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM • Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07 • antibiotic usage • upper respiratory infections • colds • influenza • probiotics

Abbreviations: CFU—colony-forming unit • OR—odds ratio