Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 17, 1994

Researchers Prove What Mom Said About Yogurt, Milk
By Chris Rowett

Since the early 1900s physicians and parents have believed
that something in yogurt and other milk products prevents
acute diarrhea. Now--with a study that may have farreaching
implications--researchers at the Hopkins Children's Center
have proved it.
    For the first time, study results scientifically prove
that Bifodbacteri bifidum, commonly found in breast milk, and
Streptococcus thermophilus, a microorganism in cultured milk
products like yogurt, can reduce acute diarrhea in sick
youngsters by as much as 80 percent. Those bacteria also
prevent the excretion of dangerous organisms that cause
diarrhea to spread between children. The study appears in the
current issue of Lancet.
    "These findings may change the way we feed toddlers
exposed to lots of other 5-to-24-month-olds," said Robert
Yolken, director of pediatric infectious diseases.
    Additionally, the findings may be applied by relief
organizations serving Third World countries, where acute
diarrhea leads to millions of childhood deaths annually. More
than 100 children in the United States die each year from the
disease, Dr. Yolken said.
    In the 17-month study involving 55 children from infants
to toddlers, a group of patients at Mount Washington
Pediatric Hospital were fed formula containing both bacteria.
Another group was fed placebo formula.
    Only 7 percent of those on the supplemented formula
developed diarrhea, compared to 31 percent of those given the
placebo formula. 
    Equally significant, only 3 percent of the children on
the supplement excreted rotavirus, the most common and
contagious viral cause of diarrhea in infants. Ten percent of
the patients on the placebo formula showed signs of
    "These results tell us that a simple solution could have
major national and international health effects," Dr. Yolken
said. The bacteria may one day come in pill or powder form
for everyday ingestion, he said.
    Though he is cautious and will not make a blanket
recommendation to parents about their children's diets, Dr.
Yolken said he would not be surprised if other physicians
suggest feeding yogurt to children to prevent diarrhea.
    "That would be reasonable," he said. "And I don't see
any reason why a parent wouldn't want to do that."    
    Further research is needed, he said.
    "What we'd like to know is whether similar preparations
would prevent diarrhea in day care centers, senior citizens
and soldiers who go abroad," Dr. Yolken said. "It's something
that probably should be looked at."
    The study was funded by grants from the National
Institutes of Health and from Carnation Nutritional Products,
which prepared and supplied the two study formulas. 

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