An Immunity Booster For Kids

Children attending day-care centers suffer three times as many illnesses as children cared for at home or in small family care groups. Now, research reported in the British Medical Journal suggests that supplementing children's diets with the probiotic Lactobacillus GG, an immune-boosting bacteria, helps day-care kids stay healthy (2001, vol. 322, no. 7298).

Conducted at 18 Finnish day-care centers over seven winter months, the study observed 860 children, ages 1 to 6, who were randomly assigned to drink either regular 1 percent milk or 1 percent milk containing Lactobacillus GG, three times daily. As winter progressed, both groups showed the same rate of disease symptoms (for example, a runny nose); however, those consuming lactobacillus-enhanced milk had milder infections with fewer days sick at home, plus fewer respiratory tract complications and gastrointestinal problems. Researchers point out that this study actually may underestimate lactobacillus's effectiveness, since 15 percent of children from the control group reportedly received the probiotic at home. One potential benefit: Providing some form of lactobacillus to day-care—or school age—children could improve a region's economy by lowering the high cost of parental absenteeism due to children's illness.

—Marilyn Sterling