Background and aims: The purpose of this study was to investigate the efficacy of a synbiotic supplementation in reducing common winter diseases in children.
Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study was conducted in young school-age children (3-7 years old) during a winter period. Participants were otherwise healthy children who suffered from at least three episodes of ear, nose and throat (ENT), respiratory tract or gastrointestinal illness during the previous winter. They were supplemented daily with either a synbiotic preparation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Bifidobacterium infantis R0033, Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071, and fructooligosaccharide) or a matched placebo for 3 months. Over this period, all emergent health episodes of any type were recorded by parents in a diary. They were checked by investigators at regular monthly visits. The main study outcome was the percentage of children free of any episode during the study course.
Results: We randomized 135 children (mean age: 4.1±1.0 years) to the synbiotic group (n = 62) or placebo (n = 73) group. At least one illness episode was reported in 32 children in the synbiotic group and 50 in the placebo group (51.6% versus 68.5%). This corresponded to a significant 25% relative risk reduction (95% CI 0.6-44.3%; p = 0.045). This difference was due to a decrease in the number of children who suffered from at least one ENT, respiratory tract or gastrointestinal disorder (50.0% with synbiotic versus 67.1% with placebo; p = 0.044). At least one sickness school day loss was noted in 25.8% of children with the synbiotic as compared with 42.5% with placebo (p = 0.043). No treatment related side effects were detected in either group.
Conclusions: This study suggests that a 3-month supplementation with this synbiotic preparation can decrease the risk of occurrence of common infectious diseases in children and limits the risk of school day loss.