Probiotics may ease bowel movements for elderly: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Probiotics may ease bowel movements for elderly: Study
Daily supplements of probiotic bacteria may improve bowel movements in hospitalized elderly people, according to new findings from Israel.

A combination of eight strains of bacteria was associated with a significant reduction in the use of laxatives amongst the 215 elderly people participating in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Writing in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging​, scientists from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev report that the study’s findings “demonstrate that many patients can gain from probiotic use​.

“Since the study participants (orthopedic elderly patients) are generally in better health than chronic institutionalized elderly patients, a future study of patients with more co-morbidity, especially internal medicine patients, may yield even more dramatic results,”​ they added.

The study adds to an ever growing body of science supporting the potential health benefits of select bacterial strains. According the FAO/WHO, probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host"​.

Study details

Led by Hilla Zaharoni, the researchers recruited 215 over 65-year olds and randomly assigned them to receive the probiotic blend or placebo for 45 days.

The probiotic product (VSL Pharmaceuticals) reportedly contained 450 billion viable lyophilized bacteria from eight different strains, including Lactobacillus plantarum, L. paracasei, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus​, Bifidobacterium breve, B. longum, B. infantis​, and Streptococcus thermophilus​.

The researchers reported that people consuming the probiotic experienced a lower incidence of diarrhea (60 percent lower), compared to placebo.

In addition, laxative use decreased by 26 percent amongst people in the probiotic group, compared to placebo, added the Israeli scientists.

“While diarrhea is less common than constipation in the elderly, it is common after antibiotic use especially as Clostridium difficile - associated diarrhea (CDAD), which increases with age,” ​wrote the researchers in the journal.

“Since acute diarrhea increases morbidity and mortality in the elderly, prevention is therefore beneficial. A significant reduction of Clostridium difficile prevalence was found in the probiotic group,”​ they added.

Source: Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
2011, Volume 15, Number 3, Pages 215-220, doi: 10.1007/s12603-010-0323-3
“Probiotics improve bowel movements in hospitalized elderly patients — The proage study”
Authors: H. Zaharoni, E. Rimon, H. Vardi, M. Friger and A. Bolotin, et al.

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