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Probiotics Play Critical Role in Pediatric Health and Immunity

Symposium at National Pediatric Conference Explores Probiotics, Immunity

and Long-Term Health

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Probiotics have become such a trend in consumer food products that their scientific evidence and clinical benefits may often be overlooked. But probiotics, or "good bacteria," deserve attention from pediatric clinicians, said presenters at a satellite symposium during the 2007 meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in San Francisco. Renowned experts in pediatrics, nutrition, and gastroenterology addressed how intestinal microflora influence a child's developing immune system, as well as how disruptions to this normal microbial balance impact infectious, inflammatory and allergic diseases in children.

The symposium, Probiotics in Pediatrics: Modulating Gut Immunity and Enhancing Long-Term Health, explored how greater understanding of the intestinal microflora and its role in the development of the infant immune system has led to increased interest from pediatricians.

W. Allan Walker, M.D., a Conrad Taff professor of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School in Boston, discussed the roles of intestinal microflora and the initial colonization of bacteria as they relate to immunity. According to the hygiene hypothesis, cleanliness and lack of exposure to various microorganisms can have a direct effect on our immune systems. Public health measures such as pasteurization and sterilization of foods, increased use of antibiotics, and the rising number of cesarean sections have led to a decreased exposure to microorganisms. In infants, this can cause an increased disease burden as the mucosal immune system fails to develop properly. The timing of appropriate colonization correlates with development of host defenses and prevention of diseases.

Inadequate colonization can be overcome by the use of probiotics as "surrogate" colonizers. Martin G. Martin, M.D., a professor of Pediatrics at David Geffen University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine in Los Angeles discussed how studying the role of the intestinal microflora in health and disease states is crucial due to a rise in allergic and autoimmune disorders in infants (or children). Dr. Martin discussed the evidence for introduction of safe bacteria to infant nutrition, and highlighted how certain probiotics have potential benefits on the gut and immune functions that are at a critical stage in development in infancy.

Not all probiotics are the same, however. Erika Isolauri, M.D., a professor in the department of Pediatrics at University of Turku in Turku, Finland, narrowed the concept of probiotics to its role in pediatrics and discussed how this requires a focus on several specific strains of bacterial species. For example, recent research confirms that breast milk contains bifidobacteria and specific Bifidobacterium species that may promote healthy microbiota development. Bifidobacterium species have been specifically studied in the pediatric population and have shown positive benefits in GI tract infections and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Numerous studies have addressed the safety and efficacy of probiotics, including a clinical study that examined the role of probiotics in reducing acute diarrhea and atopic eczema with Lactobacilli strains.

The challenge, moving forward, is to explore the mechanism of how the specific strain has its benefit in order to identify the most appropriate host.

This symposium was sponsored by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, and supported by an educational grant from Nestle Nutrition Institute.

Over the past seven years, the Nestle Nutrition Institute (NNI) has supported educational programs on the topic of allergy and infant nutrition in conjunction with entities such as Baylor College of Medicine, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as well as satellite symposia at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference. Established in 2000, NNI is part of, and is solely funded by, Nestle USA and serves as an educational resource that partners with physicians and other healthcare professionals to foster understanding of scientific discoveries and their application in order to achieve optimal nutrition for infants and families. An Advisory Board composed of five nationally renowned pediatric nutrition researchers and clinicians helps guide NNI.

About Nestle Nutrition

Nestle Nutrition, part of Nestle S.A., the world's largest food company, is dedicated to infant, healthcare, and performance nutrition and weight management. With 140 years of global food experience that began with the creation of the world's first commercial infant food, Nestle is a leader in worldwide food and nutrition research. For clinical information about Nestle Infant Nutrition products in the U.S., medical professionals can visit or call the Medical Professional Information Line at (800) 510-7494. Nestle Nutrition also offers the very best baby Resource Center, a program that supports expecting and new parents in the U.S. with expert advice on pregnancy, infant care, and nutrition. For more information, consumers can visit

SOURCE Nestle Nutrition
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