Probiotics reduce eczema risk?

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IQWiG: Probiotics protect against neurodermatitis

Relatively many children develop neurodermatitis (atopic eczema) in the first years of life, which may accompany them throughout their lives. So-called probiotics or probiotic food additives for pregnant women and infants could have a preventive effect and prevent the development of neurodermatitis, according to the current press release from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

According to the IQWiG, up to two out of ten children experience an itchy rash in the form of neurodermatitis at least temporarily. Complaints that can possibly be prevented by taking prebiotics and probiotics. Although the risk of atopic dermatitis is largely genetic, IQWiG reports that the outbreak of the disease can be avoided under certain circumstances by pre- and probiotic food supplements, citing the evaluation of current study results. "One possibility is to take pre- or probiotic food supplements in the last weeks of pregnancy and / or during breastfeeding," the institute said.

Probiotics with a positive effect on the intestinal flora The probiotic products contain living germs, such as lactic acid bacteria, which are said to have a positive effect on the intestinal flora, which in turn should protect against later development of allergic diseases. According to IQWiG, prebiotics are substances that "stimulate the development of probiotics in the digestive system." The prebiotics and probiotics are available as tablets, liquids or in the form of milk products such as yoghurt. Especially in children who are not breastfed, baby milk with pre- or probiotic additives can be considered. Because babies who are not breastfed have significantly less lactic acid bacteria in the intestine than babies who are fed with breast milk.

Studies on the preventive effect of prebiotics in neurodermatitis When evaluating the research results on prebiotic and probiotic agents, IQWiG concludes that both the prebiotics and the probiotics in particular have some indications that they have a preventive effect against neurodermatitis can. Regarding the prebiotics, "Scientists from the University of Sydney evaluated four high-quality studies in which baby milk with prebiotic additives was compared with baby milk without additives," reports the IQWiG. A total of approximately 1,200 mothers and their infants were involved in the studies. The evaluation had shown that out of 100 infants who were fed baby milk without additives, 12 developed neurodermatitis, while out of 100 infants who received prebiotic baby milk, only eight developed neurodermatitis. According to the researchers, the prebiotic additives had saved four out of 100 infants from neurodermatitis.

Prebiotic additives not sufficiently researched so far "The studies provide weak evidence that baby milk enriched with prebiotics can protect against neurodermatitis", according to the IQWiG. However, more research is urgently needed to make reliable statements, because the largest study only took a year and some children only develop chronic rashes after this time, reports the institute. Furthermore, most of the babies in the studies were born without a predisposition to neurodermatitis. "It is therefore unclear whether prebiotic baby food can prevent neurodermatitis in babies with a high risk of skin rashes," said the IQWiG. The so-called oligosaccharides (carbohydrates from sugar or starch) are known as prebiotics with which baby food is enriched.

Probiotics have a preventive effect on neurodermatitis However, research is a step further with probiotics. A "group of scientists from the Universities of Milan and Paris evaluated studies in which probiotic products for the prevention of neurodermatitis were examined." According to the IQWiG, a total of 14 studies with over 6,500 infants were taken into account. So the data situation is pretty good here. Products with lactic acid bacteria were predominantly tested, with the “mothers taking them in some studies from the last weeks of pregnancy until weaning” and “in other studies the babies were given baby food with probiotic additives for several months after birth”. In most of the studies, the babies involved had a family risk of allergic diseases and were followed up over a period of up to two years, which further strengthened the significance of the studies. The evaluation had shown that 34 out of 100 infants who did not receive probiotic food supplements developed neurodermatitis, while only 26 out of 100 infants who received probiotic products or whose mothers took probiotic products developed atopic eczema. Accordingly, the probiotic additives would have prevented neurodermatitis in eight out of 100 infants. "The results show that probiotic products can at least protect something against neurodermatitis," concluded the IQWiG. (fp)

Image: Medienleiter / Markus Leiter /

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Video: Treating Eczema in Infancy May Prevent a Lifetime of Allergic Diseases


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