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LungRespiratory infectious conditions place a substantial health and economic burden on society. The economic impact of colds has been estimated to be $40 billion dollars in the USA annually. Recent systematic reviews have reported a positive, although modest, effect of probiotics in terms of preventing common cold symptoms. The recent systematic review further evaluated the effect of probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, on the duration of acute respiratory infections in otherwise healthy children and adults.

In the latest review, twenty randomised controlled trials (RCT) were included, of which twelve were considered to have a low risk of bias. The duration of probiotic treatment ranged from 3 weeks to 7 months, although the majority of trials were carried out for approximately 3 months over the winter months.

The meta-analysis revealed significantly fewer numbers of days of illness per person, shorter illness episodes by almost a day, and fewer numbers of days absent from day care/school/work in participants who received a probiotic intervention than in those who had taken a placebo.

In conclusion, this systematic review provides evidence from good-quality RCT that adding probiotics to diet helps reduce the duration of respiratory illness episodes in otherwise healthy children and adults and offers a viable cost-saving option in improving quality of life.

Sarah King et al; Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 29:1-14

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