Background: It has been suggested that probiotics may improve gastrointestinal discomfort. Not all probiotics exhibit the same effects and consequently meta-analyses on probiotics should be confined to well-defined strains or strain combinations. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a probiotic fermented milk (PFM) that includes Bifidobacterium lactis (B. lactis) CNCM I-2494 and lactic acid bacteria on gastrointestinal discomfort in the general adult population.
Methods: Double-blind randomized controlled trials in the general adult population comparing PFM with a control dairy product for at least 4 weeks were searched from multiple literature databases (up to February 2015). Meta-analyses using random-effects models, with individual participant data were undertaken to calculate an odds ratio (OR) or standard mean difference (SMD), with a 95% confidence interval (CI).
Results: The search strategy identified 12,439 documents. Overall, three trials with a total of 598 adults (female = 96.5%) met the inclusion criteria. Consumption of the PFM product was associated with a significant improvement in overall gastrointestinal discomfort compared with the control product (OR = 1.48; 95% CI 1.07-2.05), with a number needed to treat (NNT) of 10.24 (95% CI 5.64-55.93). PFM was also superior to the control in reducing digestive symptoms, as measured using a composite score (SMD = -0.21; 95% CI -0.37 to -0.05). Sensitivity analyses produced similar results, and the heterogeneity between studies was minimal.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis shows that the consumption of PFM with B. lactis CNCM I-2494 and lactic acid bacteria is associated with a modest but consistent and significant improvement of outcomes related to gastrointestinal discomfort in healthy adults.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium lactis; digestive symptoms; gastrointestinal discomfort; meta-analysis; probiotic; systematic review.