Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

'Friendly' Bacteria Can Benefit Digestion and Health throughout the Life Cycle

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

'Friendly' Bacteria Can Benefit Digestion and Health throughout the Life Cycle

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

At a scientific meeting, experts in the fields of pediatrics, aging, and nutrition discussed the potential uses for probiotics in children, as well as the elderly, and for health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Probiotics are used worldwide and in the United States, and they are one of the most rapidly growing categories of functional food. Probiotics are living "friendly" bacteria, such as those in certain active-culture dairy drinks that can provide health benefits. There is evidence that specific strains of probiotics, when consumed regularly, can improve digestive health and enhance immune function.

Dr. Allen Walker, Professor of Nutrition and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, led a panel of speakers in summarizing the role of probiotics in pediatric patients.

"Infants don't have all of their gut bacteria at birth, as they acquire it up until about 2 years of age. Probiotics are 'good' bacteria, which can promote healthy colonization of bacteria in the gut during this time, leading to enhanced immunity," said Dr. Walker.

Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, a Consultant specializing in probiotics, said, "Compelling new studies are showing how probiotics can help keep healthy people healthy. One study showed a decreased incidence of common infectious diseases among kids in day care."

She emphasized that each individual probiotic strain can act differently. A probiotic that helps with digestion might differ from one that supports the immune system. …

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