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Probiotics Beneficial for Tiniest Preemies

Supplements help underweight babies gain pounds, researchers find,,

SATURDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Giving probiotics -- live, beneficial bacteria -- to infants whose weight at birth is extremely low helps them gain weight, says a new study.

The study included 101 extremely premature infants who weighed 2 pounds 2 ounces or less. About half of them were given two probiotics -- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium infantis -- in tube feedings once a day until they were discharged from hospital or reached 34 weeks "postmenstrual age" (the infants' chronological age plus the time elapsed from the first day of the mothers' last menstrual period). The other infants were given no probiotics.

Though the average volume of their feedings was less, the infants given the probiotics gained more weight than the others. The researchers reported no side effects caused by the probiotics, and both groups of infants had similar rates of complications related to their prematurity, such as blood poisoning (sepsis) or an acute inflammation of the intestines (necrotizing enterocolitis).

"These findings strongly suggest that probiotic supplementation to [tube] feedings plays a major role in feeding tolerance and nutrient absorption," study author Dr. Mohamad Al-Hosni, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Improved tolerance of feedings and nutrient absorption lead to better weight gain in this extremely premature infant group."

The study was slated to be presented Saturday in Vancouver, Canada, at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

More information

The American Gastroenterological Association has more about probiotics.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 1, 2010

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