Panacea or Just 'A Big Fad'?

Article excerpt

Byline: Pat Wingert

Could something as simple as a probiotic drink stop a colicky baby from crying so much? What about reports that probiotics started during pregnancy can prevent babies from developing asthma?

In response to the increasing number of kid-oriented supplements and foods (including baby formulas, yogurts, granola bars, and juices) that contain probiotics and prebiotics, the American Academy of Pediatrics has just released a clinical report that attempts to separate the hype from the hard facts. Its conclusion: probiotics (the live, active "good" bacteria indigenous to a healthy digestive system) and prebiotics (nondigestible foods, like dietary fiber, that stimulate probiotic growth and activity) don't yet qualify as wonder cures. While they are generally considered safe--they're naturally found in abundance in breast milk--there has been little high-quality research done on the effects of supplementing and the results have been inconsistent.

That said, coauthor Dr. Dan Thomas of Children's Hospital Los Angeles says parents exhausted by a colicky baby have little to lose by talking to their doctor about probiotic drops as a possible fix. While studies are far from definitive, "there are some early encouraging results" that treated babies cry less than those getting a placebo, he says. …