Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reducing infections a little bit with active yogurt

A study financed by and partially conducted by the Dannon yogurt company (at Georgetown, with a Georgetown lead author) says, "The probiotic yogurt-like drink DanActive reduced the rate of common sicknesses such as ear infections, sinusitis, the flu and diarrhea in daycare children."

The EurekAlert sounds as though it was written by Dannon's marketing department ("Probiotic foods are continuing to increase in popularity and some are marketed for the potential benefits" of the stuff in Dannon's product ... "The study, titled DRINK (Decreasing the Rates of Illness in Kids), was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – the gold standard in clinical research design").

I hate this type of press release, where objectively it's reputable scientists doing real research at reputable places, and then they run it through a marketing department and make it sound sleazy.

But to the study, they gave 638 kids 3 to 6 a bottle of strawberry DanActive once a day and then sent them off to day care. Half got the real stuff and half got a regular (placebo) yogurt drink.
Researchers found a 19 percent decrease of common infections among the children who drank the yogurt-like drink with L. casei DN-114 001 compared to those whose drink did not have the probiotic. More specifically, those who drank DanActive had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (such as ear infections, sinusitis and strep). However, the reduction in infections did not result in fewer missed school days or activities – also a primary outcome of the study.
So Dannon paid for a study to see if giving little kids their product would make them less sick.  If found that they were sick less frequently, but the degree of relative unsickness wasn't enough to affect their daily activities, including being sent home sick from day care. So if they like it, let 'em have it, but don't think of it as medicine.

I like this study better now, and I see why the marketing flacks had to puff it up: the real story was disappointing to them.

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