Immune health encompasses not only reducing the occurrence of colds and flu, but also alleviating symptoms, reducing risk of infections, and improving overall wellness. Antioxidants and probiotics get most of the attention in this area, but research is mounting in support of the immunity benefits of other nutraceutical ingredients.
Most commonly associated with yogurt and yogurt-based beverages, probiotics can also deliver immune health benefits in commercially produced cheese products, according to Ibrahim et al. (2010). Thirty-one healthy elderly subjects were involved in three consecutive phases of monitored cheese consumption. In the first phase, they ate 15g of a control cheese for two weeks. In phase two, they consumed 15g of a similar cheese containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (HOWARU® Rhamnosus from Danisco USA Inc.) and Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM (HOWARU® Dophilus) (109 CFU/dose), also from Danisco, Madison, Wis. (phone 800-255-6837, www.danisco.com), for the next four weeks. In phase three, the subjects switched back to consuming the control cheese for four weeks. The cheese enhanced with probiotics was shown to significantly improve immunity defense indicators (enhanced phagocytic and natural killer cell activity) in the subjects’ blood.
In a separate study, Leyer et al. (2009) showed that daily dietary probiotic supplementation for six months was a safe, effective way to reduce the incidence and severity of cold and flu symptoms in children. For six months, 326 children, ages 3 to 5, were given supplements twice a day. One group received a single strain of Danisco’s L. acidophilus NCFM. One group received a combination of NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07. The third group received a placebo. When compared to the placebo group, the groups that received the single and combination probiotic supplements reduced their fever incidence by 53% and 72.7%, respectively. Their coughing was reduced by 41.4% and 62.1%, and their runny noses were lessened as well.
Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis (formerly L. reuteri ATCC 55730) from BioGaia, Sweden (phone 919 782 33 12, www.biogaia.com), exerts direct effects on pathogens and affects the immune system via the gastrointestinal epithelium. L. reuteri is a natural colonizer in humans and is even found in the milk of breastfeeding mothers. Most recently, Romeo et al. (2011) showed that L. reuteri Protectis reduced gastrointestinal symptoms and hospital stays in premature newborns. In the study, 249 premature newborns were consecutively assigned to either supplementation of L. reuteri Protectis (108 CFU/day), supplementation of L. rhamnosus (LGG, 6x109 CFU/day), or no supplementation. The probiotic supplementation started within 72 hours of admittance to the neonatal intensive care unit and continued for six weeks or until the baby was discharged. Apart from positive results on gastrointestinal symptoms and hospital stay, supplementation of L. reuteri Protectis also led to a significant reduction in number of days of antibiotic treatment compared to the LGG and control groups.
Kimmel et al. (2010) showed that a regimen of one capsule per day containing 500 million CFU of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 (GanedenBC30™) from Ganeden Biotech Inc., Mayfield Heights, Ohio (phone 440-229-5200, www.ganedenlabs.com), may be a safe and effective option for enhancing the immunological response to common viral respiratory tract infections. In addition, Jensen et al. (2010) suggested that consumption of GanedenBC30 may introduce both cell wall components and metabolites that modulate inflammatory processes in the gut, supporting a healthy immune system.