WebMD Health News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Nov. 29, 2010 -- Adding probiotics or prebiotics to children’s diets may have some potential in treating viral diarrhea and preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, but more research is needed to determine how effective these supplements may be, according to a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Overall, the authors of the report suggest that probiotics or prebiotics may offer some benefits to healthy children and infants, but they should not be given to children who are chronically or seriously ill or who have compromised immune systems.
Probiotics are supplements or enhanced foods that contain living microorganisms, such as yogurt with lactobacillus, that change the bacterial balance in the human body. The idea is to boost the kind of helpful bacteria in the body that can destroy harmful bacteria and reduce infection. Prebiotics are supplements or foods that cannot be normally digested by the gut and that promote probiotic bacterial growth, such as the compounds like oligosaccharides that are found in human breast milk and are added to some infant formulas.
In the December issue of Pediatrics, authors of a new clinical report outline the benefits and risks of children taking probiotics and prebiotics. Reviewing the current medical literature, the authors report that:
In the U.S., products marketed as dietary supplements such as probiotics do not require pre-market review or approval from the FDA. Probiotic or prebiotic products marketed to treat a specific clinical condition are classified as biologic products and require FDA approval. Manufacturers of infant formulas do have to comply with regulations to ensure safety and compliance with the law.
“As with antibiotics,” the authors write, “the use and efficacy of probiotics and prebiotics should be supported by evidence-based medicine.”
SOURCE:Thomas, D. Pediatrics, December 2010; vol 126: pp 1217-1231.
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