Speaking at the 37th American Academy of Physician Assistants gathering in San Diego, California, attendees heard talks on the role of probiotics in foods as well as medical treatments.
The Physician Assistants from the fields of gastroenterology, nutrition, microbiology and pediatrics learnt how probiotic formulations that include foods can be applied in medical fields and how public interest continues to surge.
“Physician Assistants are increasingly asked to explain how probiotics like those in cultured dairy products and other foods or supplements can benefit the gastrointestinal tract, immunity, and health throughout the lifespan,” the organizers said.
Dr. W Allan Walker, director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School, explained some of the ways in which probiotic organisms can affect health, and focused on their ability to benefit early child development.
"In infants, gut bacteria are acquired up until about 2 years of age,” he said. “'Good' bacteria consumed during this time can therefore promote the right type of bacterial colonization and can lead to enhanced immunity”
It was noted that probiotics have been proven effective in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory infections and allergic conditions.
Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics added to the discussion. "Bacteria colonizing our bodies are numerous and vital,” she highlighted.
“They outnumber our own cells 10-fold and are known to play critical roles in immune system development, maturation of intestinal cells and providing important metabolic functions that we can't do for ourselves. Probiotics can enhance these normal, beneficial activities of our colonizing microbes and have been shown to promote health in a variety of ways.”
Other speakers included Yehuda Ringel, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Martin Floch, MD, from the Yale University School of Medicine, who explored clinical applications for probiotics.
Yakult and Danone, the parent of Dannon, jointly established the Global Probiotics Council in 2004 to further probiotic research and advance public awareness.