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Probiotics help prevent allergies

TURKU, FINLAND. Allergies are a rapidly growing problem particularly in more economically advanced countries. A Finnish survey of 11,000 children aged 13 to 14 years found that 10-20 per cent had symptoms of asthma, 15-23 per cent allergic rhinitis, and 15-19 per cent atopic eczema. Atopic eczema is a superficial inflammation of the skin and may be associated with a family history of allergy.

Researchers at the University of Turku have discovered that probiotics, specifically the Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacterium, are effective in preventing atopic eczema. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is part of the gut (intestinal) flora of a healthy person. The randomized, double blind study involved 132 pregnant women who were given either placebo capsules or two capsules providing a total of 10 to the tenth units of Lactobacillus rhamnosus daily for two to four weeks before the expected delivery. After delivery either the mother (if breastfeeding) or the baby continued to receive the placebo or the probiotic for another six months.

The children were examined for allergies at ages 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months. At the two-year examination the researchers noticed that the incidence of atopic eczema in the probiotics group was half that of the incidence in the placebo group (23 per cent versus 46 per cent). They conclude that probiotics supplementation helps establish a healthy gut flora early in life resulting in a decreased risk of developing allergies later on.
Kalliomaki, Marko, et al. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, Vol. 357, April 7, 2001, pp. 1076-79
Murch, Simon H. Toll of allergy reduced by probiotics. The Lancet, Vol. 357, April 7, 2001, pp. 1057-59 (commentary)

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