Researchers Prove What Mom Said About Yogurt, Milk By Chris Rowett Since the early 1900s physicians and parents have believed that something in yogurt and other milk products prevents acute diarrhea. Now--with a study that may have farreaching implications--researchers at the Hopkins Children's Center have proved it. For the first time, study results scientifically prove that Bifodbacteri bifidum, commonly found in breast milk, and Streptococcus thermophilus, a microorganism in cultured milk products like yogurt, can reduce acute diarrhea in sick youngsters by as much as 80 percent. Those bacteria also prevent the excretion of dangerous organisms that cause diarrhea to spread between children. The study appears in the current issue of Lancet. "These findings may change the way we feed toddlers exposed to lots of other 5-to-24-month-olds," said Robert Yolken, director of pediatric infectious diseases. Additionally, the findings may be applied by relief organizations serving Third World countries, where acute diarrhea leads to millions of childhood deaths annually. More than 100 children in the United States die each year from the disease, Dr. Yolken said. In the 17-month study involving 55 children from infants to toddlers, a group of patients at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital were fed formula containing both bacteria. Another group was fed placebo formula. Only 7 percent of those on the supplemented formula developed diarrhea, compared to 31 percent of those given the placebo formula. Equally significant, only 3 percent of the children on the supplement excreted rotavirus, the most common and contagious viral cause of diarrhea in infants. Ten percent of the patients on the placebo formula showed signs of rotavirus. "These results tell us that a simple solution could have major national and international health effects," Dr. Yolken said. The bacteria may one day come in pill or powder form for everyday ingestion, he said. Though he is cautious and will not make a blanket recommendation to parents about their children's diets, Dr. Yolken said he would not be surprised if other physicians suggest feeding yogurt to children to prevent diarrhea. "That would be reasonable," he said. "And I don't see any reason why a parent wouldn't want to do that." Further research is needed, he said. "What we'd like to know is whether similar preparations would prevent diarrhea in day care centers, senior citizens and soldiers who go abroad," Dr. Yolken said. "It's something that probably should be looked at." The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and from Carnation Nutritional Products, which prepared and supplied the two study formulas.
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