'Good' bacteria reduce diarrhea in babies

April 18, 2001 in Gastrointestinal Health, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers

'Good' bacteria reduce diarrhea in babies

Common bacteria can help cut the risk that hospitalized infants will develop diarrhea by 80%, Polish researchers report. The research team investigated whether providing the infants with formula containing Lactobacillus GG (LGG) bacteria could prevent the onset of diarrhea. LGG is known as a "friendly" bacteria, or "probiotic," which is naturally present in the gut and can help balance the presence of other harmful microbes, warding off intestinal problems.

The study enrolled 81 children under age 3 who were hospitalized in two pediatric medical centers in Poland for unrelated causes. Hospitalized infants are at an especially high risk of acquiring intestinal microbes such as the rotavirus, which can cause diarrhea and possibly lead to infant death. In the study, half the children were given a formula containing LGG twice daily, while the others received an inactive placebo formula. One third of the children receiving the placebo formula developed diarrhea, compared with only 7% of the children receiving the formula containing LGG. This translates to an 80% reduction in the risk of developing diarrhea. There were no adverse side effects reported from the treatment.

There are several theories how probiotics might help prevent intestinal disorders: they may compete with harmful microbes for nutrients in the body, or may actually synthesize microbe-fighting compounds.

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