Take a walk down the dairy aisle these days at your local grocery store and it is hard to avoid. It is one of the hottest trends: adding probiotics to food as a way to improve your health.
"If I go to the supermarket and I find a new product, I'm more than likely to buy it and try it,” said Nawar Shara.
A mother of four kids, Shara is always on the hunt for healthy options.
Also a medical researcher herself, she signed up two of her boys for a local study on whether probiotics really work.
"A probiotic is a live microorganism that confers a benefit to the host,” said Dr. Dan Merenstein.
Dr. Merenstein at the Georgetown University School of Medicine says the study is the largest probiotic clinical trial ever done in the United States.
"The study itself was about two years, but the kids were actually in the study for 120 days and they drank the yogurt every day for 90 straight days," said Dr. Merenstein.
638 healthy kids in all, who attended school five days a week. Participants drank either DanActive or a placebo drink with no probiotic. Shara’s boys say they liked the taste.
Dannon, one of the largest yogurt sellers, did fund the study but Dr. Merenstein says it was all his idea.
"We had full publication rights, so we were going to publish positive, negative,” said Merenstein. “Regardless, we were going to publish."
According to Dr. Merenstein, the results “did decrease the infections a lot but it didn't actually change their activity level."
Dr. Merenstein says kids drinking the daily probiotic saw a 24 percent decrease in gastrointestinal infections like diarrhea and vomiting and an 18 percent decrease in upper respiratory infections, such as ear infections and strep throat. But that did not lead to fewer missed school days.
"I think it's good if it works, but a healthy diet should not be replaced by anything else," said Shara.
If you really want to see a benefit from probiotics, Dr. Merenstein says it needs to be eaten at least five days a week. And he says you need to choose products with at least three probiotics in them, not just two like all yogurts contain.
"I'm a big believer in getting your probiotics through food. I just think the yogurt is a healthy snack,” said Dr. Merenstein.
To read more about the clinical trial, go to:
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