Two interesting studies on children’s health from Finland

The first of these studies was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2001;322:1-5). It followed 594 children who attended different day care centers in Helsinki over a period of seven months. The children were divided in two groups, one receiving plain milk, and the other milk with Lactobacillus GG (LGG) in it. Lactobacillus is a dietary supplement consisting of bacteria that is beneficial for the intestinal tract and the immune system. LGG is a special strain of this bacteria found in a product called Culturelle.

The group receiving LGG in their milk had significantly fewer days away from day care due to illness and they were free from respiratory tract symptoms for longer periods of time. More complicated infections, such as sinus or ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia were also reduced in the group receiving LGG.

The second study (Allergy, 2001;56:425-8) found that children who consumed higher amounts of margarine were more likely to develop allergic diseases, including eczema, asthma and hay fever. Children who remained free of these diseases typically consumed more butter than margarine. Here’s one more good reason to avoid margarine!

Lactobacillus, Childhood Allergies and Crohn’s Disease

A recent study published in the British medical journal The Lancet (April 7, 2001;357:1076-1079) looked at the effects of Lactobacillus GG on childhood allergies. Lactobacillus GG is a supplement containing beneficial bacteria. It is found in Culturelle, a product that many of my patients are very familiar with. Researchers in Finland gave this product to a group of pregnant women and continued giving it for six months after delivery if the women were breast-feeding. If the infant was bottle-fed, the supplement was given directly to the newborn. By age two, the children who had received the Lactobacillus were found to be half as likely to develop allergies, the most remarkable result ever seen in allergy prevention research. Researchers believe that exposure to beneficial bacteria ear ly in life may train the immune system to defend from disease instead of overreacting to normally benign substances.

In another study (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, Oct 2000;31(4):453-457) the same Lacotbacillus GG was given at a rate of one capsule twice a day for six months to children suffering from Crohn’s disease, a severe intestinal disorder. This resulted in a 73% reduction in symptoms within four weeks of starting the supplement and the improvements were maintained throughout the duration of the study. Interestingly, no other treatment was used in this study. With dietary change and a few other targeted supplements, the improvement may well have been 100%.