Probiotics play increasing role in pediatric research
conducting a large National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded
study which researchers hope will shed light on the potential role
of probiotics in asthma prevention at an early age.
The topic of probiotics is getting increasing coverage in the area of pediatrics. UCSF's Dr. Micheal Cabana recently spoke as part of a probiotics symposium that took place at the Pediatric Academic Societies' Annual Meeting in Toronto early May. Dr. Cabana says that the reason for the probiotics research in pediatrics is to find out both what the therapeutic and preventative characteristics of the friendly bacteria are, as well as to address dosage and application issues. "There's a lot of evidence for what I can give kids who have asthma to treat them," Dr. Cabana, director of the division of General Pediatrics at UCSF, told NutraIngredients-USA. "But nothing to prevent the development of it." UCSF's School of Medicine is conducting a 2.4m five-year study that began a year ago in the San Francisco area and is still looking for infant subjects. The Trial of Infant Probiotic Supplementation, or TIPS, study is specifically looking to prevent the development of asthma in children. The overarching themes driving this probiotic research for pediatrics, according to Dr. Cabana, are a greater recognition of the therapeutic applications of probiotics to diseases, increasing trends in asthma and atopic disease prevention, in addition to a lack of knowledge on dosing of probiotics for infants. Since the late 1980s, the scientific literature on probiotics has grown measurably and in turn functional food applications have spread to hold significant market value as major players such as Danone bring probiotic products like its Activia line into consumers' diets. Other topics presented at the probiotics symposium include the effects of probiotics on pathogenic adhesion to gastrointestinal cells, as well as for necrotizing enterocolitis and inflammatory bowel disease. "The whole point was to talk about the diversity of applications of probiotics and the mechanisms of action," said Dr. Cabana. North America has been a tough nut to crack for probiotic suppliers as the concept of friendly bacteria only begins to take hold among consumers, whereas it is an established concept in Europe. Nestlé has already been selling B. lactis formulas in 30 different countries for more than 15 years, while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only now authorized the use of B. lactis in Good Start Natural Cultures. The Swiss food giant recently launched its Good Start Natural Cultures is the first US infant formula to contain probiotics for immune system support. The company says the Bifidobacterium lactis in its formula helps children improve the balance of microflora in their gastrointestinal tract, thereby supporting a healthy immune system.