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Do probiotics benefit growth in children? Upstate study has an answer

The use of probiotics during a child’s key growth period of between birth and 59 months has little effect on the promotion of growth in apparently healthy children from high income countries (HIC), such as the United States, according to researchers at Upstate Medical University.

However, probiotics taken by apparently healthy children between the ages of zero and 59 months from low and middle income (LMIC) countries did have a small effect on growth.

There was no evidence that probiotics increased the risk of any of adverse events including risk of sepsis (blood infection), the authors conclude.

The review, Probiotic Supplementation for Promotion of Growth in Children: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis, was published in the journal Nutrients in December 2021. Authors say it is the largest systematic review conducted on the subject to date.

Researchers from Upstate arrived at their findings after conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis on existing worldwide research on the issue that included randomized trials. Studies were limited to apparently health children and did not include sources that declared its participants to be undernourished or malnourished.

Probiotics are often taken by children to counter common childhood ailments, like diarrhea and constipation, or to ease some side effects of antibiotics, but there is little benefit to growth by the use of probiotics.

“Overall, there was no evidence that probiotics had a clinically meaningful effect on any of the growth outcomes in children from high-income countries,” the authors note. “The data from low- and middle-income countries showed that there may be a small beneficial effect on weight and height gain; however, the certainty of evidence was low and moderate for these outcomes.

“Our observation that children in low- and middle-income countries might benefit from probiotic supplementation is consistent with recent findings regarding the beneficial effects of a microbiota-targeted food intervention in Bangladesh,” the authors note. “There is a need for large-scale clinical trials that address the multifaceted role of the microbiota in childhood nutrition.”

The probiotics market for infants and children is big business in the United State valued at $119.8 million in 2018 and is projected to reach $215.87 million by 2026.

Authors from Upstate included Joseph Catania, Natasha Pandit, Julie Ehrlick, Muizz Zaman, Elizabeth Stone, Courtney Francheschi, Abigail Smith, Aamer Imdad, MBBS. Other authors were affiliated with the University of Oregon, University of Pennsylvania, the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.; and Aga Khan University; Karachi, Pakistan.


Caption: Study authors from Upstate included medical student Joseph Catania and Aamer Imdad, MBBS.