Purpose: To evaluate whether yogurt supplemented with a probiotic strain could protect middle-aged and elderly people from acute upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) using a randomized, blank-controlled, parallel-group design.
Patients and methods: Two hundred and five volunteers aged ≥45 years were randomly divided into two groups. The subjects in the intervention group were orally administered 300 mL/d of yogurt supplemented with a probiotic strain, Lactobacillus paracasei N1115 (N1115), 3.6×107 CFU/mL for 12 weeks, while those in the control group retained their normal diet without any probiotic supplementation. The primary outcome was the incidence of URTI, and changes in serum protein, immunoglobulins, and the profiles of the T-lymphocyte subsets (total T-cells [CD3+], T-helper cells [CD4+], and T-cytotoxic-suppressor cells [CD8+]) during the intervention were the secondary outcomes.
Results: Compared to the control group, the number of persons diagnosed with an acute URTI and the number of URTI events significantly decreased in the intervention group (P=0.038, P=0.030, respectively). The risk of URTI in the intervention group was evaluated as 55% of that in the control group (relative risk =0.55, 95% CI: 0.307-0.969). The change in the percentage of CD3+ cells in the intervention group was significantly higher than in the control group (P=0.038). However, no significant differences were observed in the total protein, albumin, globulin, and prealbumin levels in both groups (P>0.05).
Conclusion: The study suggested that yogurt with selected probiotic strains such as N1115 may reduce the risk of acute upper tract infections in the elderly. The enhancement of the T-cell-mediated natural immune defense might be one of the important underlying mechanisms for probiotics to express their anti-infective effects.
Keywords: Lactobacillus paracasei N1115; acute upper respiratory tract infection; elderly; immunosenescence; probiotics; yogurt.