Probiotics: Daycare wellness secret?

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Could probiotics be the key to keeping kids healthy in spite of daycare germs? Maybe.

Could probiotics be the key to keeping kids healthy in spite of daycare germs? Maybe.

A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the impact of probiotics on common infectious diseases and childhood behavior and found that probiotics may have a positive impact on the prevention of infectious diseases (as for behavior … no dice). Probiotics are a good-for-you bacteria found in some yogurts and yogurt-like drinks.

Researchers looked at 638 children ages three to six in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The kids all attended daycare or school. Students were given a “fermented dairy drink containing a specific probiotic strain or matching placebo with no live cultures for 90 consecutive days.” Researchers looked at both the incidence of common infectious diseases and how the children behaved due to illness.

The study, which was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., used DanActive for the testing.

“We studied a functional food, not a medicinal product; parents will thus feed their children without any physician input and we felt it was best to assess [the drink] under similar conditions,” says Daniel Merenstein, MD, of Georgetown University School of Medicine, director of research in the Department of Family Medicine.

Ultimately, although this study didn’t arrive at a definitive conclusion, it did give some hope for parents who worry about their kids getting ill while in school or daycare due to common illnesses: give them probiotics and it may help them fight off illness.

“Our study had mixed results,” admits Merenstein. “Children in school or daycare are especially susceptible to these illnesses. We did find some differences in infection rates but this did not translate to fewer missed school days or change in daily activity. It is my hope that safe and tolerable ways to reduce illnesses could eventually result in fewer missed school days which means fewer work days missed by parents.”

It’s important to note that DanActive isn’t the only source of probiotic drinks for kids. Lifeway’s Kefir drink, ProBugs, is an organic yogurt-like drink with probiotics that’s sold in major retailers including Target and Whole Foods. The fun, bright packaging and easy-grab container for sipping is great for kids.