Probiotics boost bowel health, says new Netherlands report

London: A new pilot study from The Netherlands suggests that friendly bacteria, which have known benefits for intestinal health, may boost the number of bowel movements and relieve constipation.

The study investigated the potential of a probiotic mixture to alleviate the symptoms associated with childhood constipation, a condition that can affect up to 30 per cent of children in the Western world according to researchers.

The pilot reported that the frequency of bowel movements doubled following probiotic supplementation, increasing from two per week to 4.2 after two weeks, to 3.8 after four weeks. In addition a decrease in abdominal pain reported by the children showed a drop from 45 per cent at the start of the study to only 20 per cent after four weeks of supplementation.

Researchers from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam report state that previous studies with single strains showed conflicting results, and that a mixture of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains may hold the key. “Given their safety profile, probiotics could be an attractive compound to manipulate gastrointestinal motility in constipated children,” wrote lead author Noor Bekkali.

Available from The Nutri Centre, the UK’s leading resource for nutritional supplements, complementary medicine and advice, Biocare Bio-Acidophilus contains 8 billion viable cells in an exclusive LAB4 complex, consisting of two strains of Lactobacillus Acidophilus and two strains of Bifidobacterium Bifidum. These strains have been specially selected for their robustness and ability to survive in the human digestive environment. The fructooligosaccharide (FOS) base is a highly effective growth medium for these probiotic bacteria.

Bio-Acidophilus costs £17.95 for 60 veg capsules. Adults should take 2 capsules per day. The dosage for children is lower at half a capsule per day from 12 months onwards, and 1 capsule from 2 years onwards. Children between 6 and 12 months can take half a teaspoon (2g) per day of Biocare’s strawberry or banana flavoured Acidophilus Powder (60g for £13.75), which contains the same beneficial strains of bacteria in a base of naturally flavoured FOS. Bifidobacterium Infantis (60g for £24.60) is suitable for children from birth onwards, as it only contains the one strain of bacteria, also in a base of FOS. The powder can mixed withwater, milk, juice or unheated food. Follow these dosage guidelines or as professionally directed.

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The skinny on functional foods

London: How do you identify reliable probiotics? What benefits do they offer? How can they help the immune system in its constant battle against infection and allergy? Is there really any evidence to indicate that taking probiotics is associated with a reduced cancer risk? And how will the forthcoming EU regulations help clarify probiotic claims for the consumer?

A panel of experts explained all today, reviewing the latest available evidence on probiotics at Yakult’s science symposium at the Institute of Physics, London.

Tom MacDonald, Professor of Immunology at Barts & the London School of Medicine, commented “The gut contains most of the immune cells in the body, so drinking probiotics gives the immune system a boost to prevent infections and allergies”

“There is a lot of evidence from studies on cell cultures and in animals that probiotics, prebiotics and combinations of the two can exert anticancer effects. Until recently, there has been little work conducted in humans,” said Professor Ian Rowland, University of Ulster.

But a new paper, soon to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reports a study conducted as part of the European Union funded ‘SYNCAN’ Project. In this investigation, volunteers were fed a mixture of pro and prebiotics, or placebo, for eight weeks and a wide range of indicators of colon cancer risk were measured.

“Those subjects on the pro and prebiotics had less DNA damage and a lower rate of cell proliferation in biopsies taken from their colons. This feeding of pro and prebiotics also saw improvements in certain characteristics of faeces samples that may indicate reduced cancer risk.

“Whilst this evidence is not definitive, the study does suggest that the extensive data showing anticancer activity from experiments in animals and isolated cells may apply to humans, and that more studies in human volunteers are warranted,” said Professor Rowland

Experts reviewed the effects of probiotics on a range of disorders, including IBS, gastroenteritis, infections, eczema, allergies, cancers and other clinical conditions.

Catherine Collins, Chief Dietitian, St. George’s Hospital, London said the challenge facing dietitians today was to help people understand which probiotic to choose, dependent on their health condition.

“Generic recommendation of probiotics is irrelevant as different bacterial strains exhibit different effects on human health, and the effectiveness of one species or strain cannot be inferred from another.”

Commenting on why probiotic ‘shots’ had been embraced so enthusiastically by the British consumer, for example, she added that the probiotic industry “…has created public awareness of the link between probiotics and their potential ability to alleviate common intestinal conditions such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

Prof David Richardson (DPR Nutrition) explained how the forthcoming EU health claims regulation should help reduce consumer confusion about functional foods. For the first time, this will allow probiotics to make claims to reduce the risk of disease when substantiated by generally accepted scientific evidence.