Probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis shows immune support for elderly people

The study is said to be the first to show that the probiotic Bi-07 may provide immune health benefits to elderly individuals

Daily supplements of the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 may improve the activity of white blood cells in elderly adults, a population with higher susceptibility to infections.

Researchers from the University of Reading in the UK and DuPont Nutrition & Health found that a daily dose of the probiotic for three weeks led to significant increases in the activity of monocytes and granulocytes in 37 elderly people.

“Consumption of Bi-07 could potentially improve clearance of bacteria from the body without contributing to the low-grade inflammation observed in the elderly population,” wrote the researchers in the Journal of Nutritional Science.

“Thus, consumption of the probiotic Bi-07 may provide long-term health benefits for the elderly by not contributing to inflammation-associated metabolic disorders while enhancing the innate immune defence against infections.”

DuPont’s interest in immunity

Dr Markus Lehtinen, senior scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Health and co-author of the study, said that immunity continues to be one of the main fields of research for the company.

“Alterations in the gut microbiota and immune functions of elderly adults are associated with higher susceptibility to infections and metabolic disorders,” he explained.

“Phagocytosis, by which immune cells ‘eat’ bacteria or infected cells, is one of the mechanisms that help to resist infections. Results of this study show that the probiotic Bi-07 may provide health benefits to elderly individuals by increasing the activity of phagocytic cells.”

Study details

Sujira Maneerat and her co-workers recruited 37 healthy elderly adults to participate in their double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized cross-over study. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) (8 g/d), probiotic (Bi-07; 109 colony-forming units/d), a combination of GOS + Bi-07 (8 g GOS/d and 109 colony-forming units Bi-07/d), or maltodextrin as placebo. Supplements were provided for 21 days, with a 28-day wash-out period that has been effective in previous studies with B. lactis and GOS.

Results showed that the Bi-07 intervention was associated with significantly higher phagocytic activity of monocytes and granulocytes, compared to the placebo intervention. Changes in other markers of immune function or microbiota composition were not detected in any supplementation groups, said the researchers.

“We have for the first time shown that the probiotic Bi-07 may provide health benefits to elderly individuals by improving the phagocytic activity of monocytes and granulocytes,” wrote Maneerat and her co-workers.

Interestingly, the researchers also noted that the 28-day wash-out period for GOS and Bi-07 was insufficient in this elderly population, despite having been found to be sufficient in general adult populations.

“The present results indicate that the wash-out time of supplementation may need to be longer in elderly subjects than what has been shown for adults,” they wrote.

“Overall, it is likely that the effective time of the probiotics and prebiotics on the gut microbiota and immune function is dependent on the population, diet, and on the properties of the probiotics and prebiotics themselves.”

Source: Journal of Nutritional Science
Volume 2 / e44, doi: 10.1017/jns.2013.31
“Consumption of Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 by healthy elderly adults enhances phagocytic activity of monocytes and granulocytes”
Authors: S. Maneerat, M.J. Lehtinen, C.E. Childs, S.D. Forssten, E. Alhoniemi, M. Tiphaine, P. Yaqoob, A.C. Ouwehand, R.A. Rastall

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