Findings presented by Finnish researchers at the University of Turku further supports the potential benefits of probiotics during the first months of life, particularly with regard to respiratory health.
The scientists claim a near 30 percent reduction in respiratory illness among infants whose diets were supplemented daily with the probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis, subspecies BB-12, as compared to those in their control group.
They also used the study as an opportunity to further test a new form of slow-delivery medical pacifier designed to administer more accurate servings of medicine to very young children. The pacifiers have a small opening in their back plate for the storage of drugs. In the case of this study, tablets of the BB-12 probiotic.
Specifics of the Study
The research team monitored 109 infants for a period of eight months beginning when each of the participants was about one month old. Following the double blind experimental standard commonly used in such studies, the infants were divided into two groups. One set of participants received the BB-12 probiotic twice daily while the other set was given only placebo.
As opposed to the findings of many studies conducted in recent years into the effects of probiotic use in older children and adults, the Finnish data did not show any significant variation between the two participant groups with regard to overall gastrointestinal health or dependence on antibiotic drugs for the treatment of common illness. The data did, however, show a marked reduction in respiratory illness among members of the BB-12 group.
Researchers at the University of Turku:
“Our soft and broad new slow-release pacifier has been developed to contain a pouch in which the food supplement tablet can be inserted. The delivery method was tested before the study began: the BB-12–xylitol tablet and the control xylitol tablet dissolved from the pouch of the pacifier both slowly and completely during 7 to 15 minutes of sucking. Thus, the probiotic tablet could be delivered in a controlled way with the new pacifier.” 
Underlying Connections Between Probiotics and Young Bodies
Increased public awareness of the many benefits of taking a probiotic supplements or eating more foods with probiotics in fully grown bodies has led to its their inclusion in a wide range of foods and medicinal products. What many people do not realize is that certain strains of probiotic bacterium also occur naturally in breast milk.
While it is believed that these particular symbiotic strains have evolved over time as a way of kick-starting the digestive processes of very young humans, their discovery has prompted researchers to further investigate the possible benefits of other forms of probiotic bacteria during early childhood and adolescence.
Further Implications of this New Research
The researchers caution that these findings are only preliminary and that additional testing on larger infant population samples is necessary before any definite conclusions can be reached. That said, the researchers remain optimistic that their findings could eventually lead to new preventative treatment options for respiratory infection and possibly other common forms of childhood illness. And in the meantime, there appears to be little harm in administering probiotics to young children under the guidance of a qualified medical professional.
When it comes to the health of your children, you should always research any products they may take, and consult your healthcare provider.
What are your thoughts on this study about probiotics and infants? We would love to hear them in the comments below.
- Teemu Taipale, Kaisu Pienihäkkinen, Erika Isolauri, Charlotte Larsen, Elke Brockmann, Pentti Alanen, Jorma Jokela, Eva Söderling. Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 in reducing the risk of infections in infancy. British Journal of Nutrition. 2011 February. vol. 105 issue 03, 409-416 doi:10.1017/S0007114510003685.
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