Probiotic prevents diarrhea in children

The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri prevents acute diarrhea in children with lower nutritional status.  This is the outcome of a unique study carried out with almost 500 children from low-socioeconomic communities in Jakarta, Indonesia. This should give a boost to the development of simple, (dairy) foods with the right probiotics.

Intestinal infections are a worldwide problem. Prevention is preferred over treatment and probiotics are easily included in a simple diet but not all probiotics have the same effect. In a recent randomized controlled trial, carried out by scientists from the Dutch Top Institute Food and Nutrition working at NIZO food research and Wageningen University together with SEAMEO RECFON in Indonesia, it was clearly shown that one of the two probiotics that were tested significantly reduced the incidence of acute diarrhea episodes. The study will be published in Pediatrics.

The group conducted a 6-months double blind, placebo-controlled study of 494 apparently healthy children aged 1- 6 years. They were randomly assigned to receive low-lactose milk with or without Lactobacillus casei 431 or Lactobacillus reuteri DSM17938. Incidence of all diarrhea episodes (≥2 loose/liquid stools in 24 hrs) was significantly reduced by 32% in the reuteri group as compared to the placebo. Furthermore, incidence of WHO-defined episode (≥ 3 loose/liquid stools in 24 hrs) was significantly lower in the reuteri group among children with lower nutritional status. L. casei was without  such effect in this study population.

According to NIZO scientist and project leader of TI Food and Nutrition Ingeborg Bovee-Oudenhoven, who closely worked together with Rina Agustina of SEAMEO RECFON, a community trial of this size carried out in a country like Indonesia is unique: “We didn’t limit ourselves to interviewing mothers on diarrhea incidence but we actually sampled diarrheal and normal stools from all children to measure various infection markers”. Based on this study, probiotic foods with proven efficacy can be developed for vulnerable children. “Especially children in these areas are exposed to a vicious circle of under-nutrition and frequent infection episodes. We now know that with the right probiotics this negative spiral can be broken.”