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Kids, Time for Milk and ... Bacteria!

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Hatakka and colleagues conclude the results support the notion that probiotics are "an easy and acceptable method" for preventing common, transmissible illnesses among children.

Though not overwhelming, the results are intriguing enough that larger, longer studies should be conducted, writes Christine Wanke, MD, associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

Wanke, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, suggests that future studies should attempt to determine the best probiotic for kids because there may be other beneficial bacteria that work just as well or better.

One of the most encouraging findings of the study is that kids who drank the bacteria-laced milk experienced no serious adverse effects.

But that does not mean that all probiotics are safe and effective, according to another expert.

"All this study tells us is that Lactobacillus GG, if you put it in milk, will reduce the risk of kids getting sick in day care centers," says John A. Vanderhoof, MD, who spoke with WebMD about the study.

In his study, Vanderhoof, of the University of Nebraska, found that Lactobacillus GGused as a probiotic reduced the incidence of diarrhea in children on antibiotics by two-thirds. He says the only side effects he has ever seen is a small percentage of children experiencing constipation from the bacteria.

"There are some other strains that are more gas producers and will give people more problems with gas -- each one of them is different -- but there don't seem to be any serious or severe effects," says Vanderhoof.

He says the U.S. is lagging behind Europe and Asia in research into probiotics for both kids and adults.

"If you go to Germany you can probably choose from 10 different probiotic yogurts," Vanderhoof says. "We have very few of them here, and it's going to take some time for us to catch up."

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