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Pre-, probiotics combo may reduce food allergy: Danone study

By Stephen Daniells , 16-Jul-2009

A supplement combining a prebiotic fibre and a probiotic strain may reduce allergic responses to cow’s milk, when used in conjunction with small amounts of whey, says a new study.

Mice fed the synbiotic mixture and undergoing oral sensitisation with whey displayed less allergic skin response and a decreased anaphylactic reaction, compared with whey-sensitised mice not receiving the supplement, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition.

“Dietary supplementation with [prebiotic] Immunofortis, [probiotic] Bifidobacterium breve M-16V, and particularly the synbiotic mixture, provided during sensitization, reduces the allergic effector response in a murine model of IgE-mediated hypersensitivity that mimics the human route of sensitization,” wrote the researchers led by Leon Knippels from Danone Research–Centre for Specialised Nutrition and the University of Utrecht.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is the predominant antibody associated with an allergic response.

“This model shows the potential for dietary intervention with synbiotics in reducing the allergic response to food allergens.”

If the results can be repeated in humans, synbiotics may offer hope for the increasing number of people suffering from allergic disease. An estimated eight per cent of children in the EU suffering from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations.

The most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives are cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.

“Cow milk allergy is the most common food allergy in children,” explained Knippels and his co-workers. “So far, no effective treatment is available to prevent or cure food allergy.”

Study details

Using a mouse model of orally induced cow’s milk allergy, the Netherlands-based researchers tested the effects of dietary supplementation with a prebiotic mixture (2 per cent, Immunofortis, a mix of galacto-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides), a probiotic strain (2 per cent, B. breve M-16V, Morinaga Milk Industry), or a synbiotic (2 per cent) mix of both.

“Mice fed pro- and prebiotic diets had a significantly reduced acute allergic skin response upon whey challenge in the ear compared with whey-sensitized mice fed the control diet,” report the researchers. “The synbiotic diet was even more effective and almost completely prevented occurrence of the acute skin response as well as anaphylactic shock reactions.”

While IgE levels were not affected by any of the interventions, said the researchers, but IgG2a levels were – the antibody specific to whey. These increases in IgG2a may reflect a response by T-cells in the pro-, pre-, or synbiotic diet, said the researchers.

“Synbiotics comprise a promising concept that may be more effective in reducing allergic symptoms than single preparations of pre- or probiotics,” concluded the researchers.


According the FAO/WHO, probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". Prebiotics are "nondigestible substances that provide a beneficial physiological effect on the host by selectively stimulating the favourable growth or activity of a limited number of indigenous bacteria".

Prebiotics are defined as: “A selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora, that confers benefits upon health wellbeing and health.” (2004)

Source: Journal of Nutrition
July 2009, Volume 139, Pages 1398-1403, doi:10.3945/jn.109.108514
“Cow Milk Allergy Symptoms Are Reduced in Mice Fed Dietary Synbiotics during Oral Sensitization with Whey”
Authors: B. Schouten, B.C.A.M. van Esch, G.A. Hofman, S.A.C.M. van Doorn, J. Knol, A.J. Nauta, J. Garssen, L.E.M. Willemsen, L.M.J. Knippels

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