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Benefits of Probiotics, Prebiotics in Children Assessed

Panel determines additional research needed to verify benefits for pediatric patients

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The efficacy of probiotics and prebiotics to treat and prevent gastrointestinal and other ailments in children needs more research to be verified, according to a clinical report published online Nov. 29 in Pediatrics.

Dan W. Thomas, M.D., of the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, and colleagues on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition reviewed studies on the medical uses of probiotics and prebiotics in the pediatric population to assess the currently known benefits.

The researchers write that probiotics have been shown to be modestly effective in the treatment of gastroenteritis and preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in healthy children and that some evidence has been found to support probiotics' role in preventing necrotizing enterocolitis in very low birth weight infants. However, they write that probiotics cannot be recommended as a treatment for constipation, Crohn's disease, or extraintestinal infections or for the prevention or treatment of cancer. They also recommend against administering probiotics to pediatric patients who have compromised immune systems, chronic debilitations, or who are seriously ill and have indwelling medical devices. The researchers recommend more study for all claims. They write that evidence is lacking on prebiotics in children but that they may provide benefit for prevention of atopic eczema and common infections in infants.

"Important questions remain in establishing the clinical applications for probiotics, including the optimal duration of probiotic administration as well as preferred microbial dose and species," the authors write.

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