The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines a “probiotic” as “live microorganisms which, when ingested in an adequate amount as part of foods, benefit the health of the host” (FAO & WHO). It has been found that for a microorganism to be defined as a probiotic, the microorganism should survive when passing through the gastrointestinal tract. In other words, the organism must be able to resist digestion by the gastric juices and to grow and colonize in the digestive tract. Bifidobacteria is among the commonly used probiotics and is classified among the microorganisms that are generally regarded as safe (GRAS). Bifidobacteria was found to have a major role in restoring the normal microbiota colonization after antibiotic treatment and resists pathogenic bacteria growth.
In an open trial conducted at the Hidaka General hospital in Japan, Enomoto et al investigated the effect of Bifidobacteria supplementation for pregnant mothers and their infants on microbiota development and allergy prevention. A total of 166 pregnant women were recruited. 36 pregnant women were assigned as control and 130 were assigned to probiotic group based on the willingness of the participants. The probiotic pregnant group were given Bifidobacterium breve M-16V and Bifidobacterium longum BB536 beginning at approximately 1 month prior to delivery and postnatally to their infants for 6 months. Pregnant mothers were asked to consume the Bifidobacterial powder by drinking it with water or milk. After birth, the infants were given one sachet of the same Bifidobacteria to be consumed with milk (breast milk or formula) or water. All pregnant mothers and their infants were asked not to change their living habits such as diet and exercise and to avoid consuming any commercial probiotic supplements during the intervention. Fecal samples were collected from the mothers and infants and assessment of allergy development was assessed at 4, 10 and 18 months of age.
Findings from this trial showed that:
Enomoto, T., Sowa, M., Nishimori, K., Shimazu, S., Yoshida, A., Yamada, K., Furukawa, F., Nakagawa, T., Yanagisawa, N., Iwabuchi, N., Odamaki, T., Abe, F., Nakayama, J., & Xiao, J. Z. (2014). Effects of bifidobacterial supplementation to pregnant women and infants in the prevention of allergy development in infants and on fecal microbiota. Allergology international : official journal of the Japanese Society of Allergology, 63(4), 575–585. Click here.