Insufficient evidence for Lactobacillus reuteri and colic, say researchers

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Baby colic Lactobacillus reuteri

Insufficient evidence for Lactobacillus reuteri and colic: Study
There is not enough evidence to support use of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri to manage colic or prevent crying infants, according to a new analysis.

The systematic review looked at data from more than 1,800 infants who took part in 12 randomised clinical trials to investigate whether the probiotic strain would be of benefit for colicky infants.

Writing in JAMA Pediatrics, the research team concluded that there ​still appears to be insufficient evidence to support using the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri​ to manage colic or to prevent crying in infants - especially in formula-fed babies. However the Australian research team noted that there is some evidence to suggest the strain may an effective treatment for crying infants who are breastfed exclusively and have colic.

 ​L reuteri may be effective as treatment for crying in exclusively breastfed infants with colic, there is still insufficient evidence to support probiotic use to manage colic, especially in formula-fed infants, or to prevent infant crying,"​ said the authors - led by Valerie Sung from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Australia.

"Larger and more rigorously designed randomized clinical trials are needed to examine the efficacy of the probiotic ​L reuteri in the management of breastfed and particularly formula-fed infants with colic and in the prevention of colic in healthy term infants,"​ the team concluded. 

Study details

The team conducted a systematic review of 12 trials that randomised 1,825 infants three months or younger to oral probiotics vs. placebo, or to no or standard treatment.

Five of the trials examined the effectiveness of probiotics in the treatment of infant colic and seven examined their role in infant colic prevention. Primary outcomes in all of the trials was the duration or number of episodes of infant crying/distress or diagnosis of "infant colic."

According to study findings, six of the 12 trials suggested probiotics reduced crying and six did not.

Three of the five management trials concluded probiotics effectively treat colic in breastfed babies; one suggested possible effectiveness in formula-fed babies with colic, and one suggested ineffectiveness in breastfed babies with colic.

Source: JAMA Pediatrics
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2572
"Probiotics to Prevent or Treat Excessive Infant Crying. Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
Authors: Valerie Sung, Sarsha Collett, Tanyth de Gooyer, et al

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Multiple causes of colic

Posted by Christian Bates,

Research also shows probiotics to be safe and very useful for colic. However, colic has multiple causes, probiotics will help some, the mother excluding foods will help others etc etc. So of course probiotics won't help every colicky baby. You have to know the cause behind the colic to find the right solution.

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Posted by Evan E,

How do you get 6 studies supporting and 6 not supporting? It is any wonder medicine is such a maze?

Well, 6 supporting studies is enough to warrant trying it for babies, and further, for other issues for adults as well. The future of medicine is clearly heading in this direction. Gone will be the napalm medicine of trying to kill everything, and in will be living with nature the way we did for millions of years.

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