Acute psychological stress is positively associated with a cold/flu. The present randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined the effect of three potentially probiotic bacteria on the proportion of healthy days over a 6-week period in academically stressed undergraduate students (n 581) who received Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Bifidobacterium longum ssp. infantis R0033, Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 or placebo. On each day, participants recorded the intensity (scale: 0 = not experiencing to 3 = very intense) for nine cold/flu symptoms, and a sum of symptom intensity >6 was designated as a day of cold/flu. B. bifidum resulted in a greater proportion of healthy days than placebo (P≤ 0·05). The percentage of participants reporting ≥ 1 d of cold/flu during the 6-week intervention period was significantly lower with B. bifidum than with placebo (P< 0·05). There were no effects of B. infantis or L. helveticus compared with placebo on either outcome. A predictive model accounted for influential characteristics and their interactions on daily reporting of cold/flu episodes. The proportion of participants reporting a cold on any given day was lower at weeks 2 and 3 with B. bifidum and B. infantis than with placebo for the average level of stress and the most commonly reported number of hours of sleep. Daily intake of bifidobacteria provides benefit related to cold/flu outcomes during acute stress.
Keywords: Lactobacillus helveticus.