The systematic analysis of four studies from that were initially published more than fifteen years ago shows significant immune benefits from taking Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis HN019-fortified milk over a few weeks.
Specifically, the study reports that B. lactis HN019 enhances the immune system’s phagocytic capacity – the ability of white blood cells to destroy pathogens – which three of the studies investigated.
Published in Nutrients, the review pooled data from a total of 81 participants aged between 60 and 70 who had consumed low-fat milk fortified with B. lactis (or a control) on a daily basis, for three to six weeks. Only one study used a control group.
New significant effect confirmed
Three of the four studies investigated B. lactis’ effect on natural killer (NK) cell activity – where none of the original studies found a significant benefit. However, the results from a pooled analysis showed a significant improvement on NK-cell activity.
“The findings from this meta-analysis suggest that daily short-term consumption of probiotic B. lactis HN019 enhances PMN phagocytic capacity and NK cell tumoricidal activity in healthy elderly adults.
“As the health of the elderly was not assessed in the original studies, the correlation between B. lactis HN019 mediated PMN and NK cell activity improvement and resistance to infection and diseases remains to be confirmed in future trials,” wrote the study’s authors.
According to DuPont, the meta-analysis – which was produced by two employees and a consultant employed by the company – is a useful tool to help promote a new probiotic product aimed at elderly people.
“This new meta-analysis supports this approach [of targeting specific target groups] and is a great platform for launching the most recent member of the HOWARU Protect family – HOWARU Protect Senior,” said Ole Danielsen, global marketing director for dietary supplements at DuPont Nutrition and Health.
When asked about the limitations of the analysis raised in the study, specifically in relation to the lack of data on the overall health of the elderly subjects in the original studies, study author and research manager at DuPont Nutrition and Health Liisa Lehtoranta acknowledged the issues.
“It is true that these studies conducted more than 15 years ago have some limitations in the extent of study details reported, however, meta-analyses on several clinical studies provide the most robust scientific evidence on the efficacy,” she said.
Fresh studies not guaranteed
But she declined to confirm if future studies would be produced, saying: “We realise that the growing population of elderly are more and more health conscious and want to have an active life. With a strong product portfolio on probiotics for immune health, DuPont Nutrition and Health is very active in this area and will be also in the future.”
On the significance of the meta-analysis, Lehtoranta said: “Despite the abundance of research showing potential benefits of the probiotics for the elderly, the efficacy of only a few probiotic strains on immune function in this population has been tested in clinical studies.
“Systematic studies and meta-analyses are needed for providing best evidence on the efficacy and safety of probiotic strains to specific health indications, especially in immune health where the effects are most likely strain specific.
Our meta-analysis shows that HN019 can enhance innate immune function of the elderly even when consumed in relatively short period of time,” she added.
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3390/nu9030191
“The Effect of Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis HN019 on Cellular Immune Function in Healthy Elderly Subjects: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”
Authors: Miller, L.E.; Lehtoranta, L.; Lehtinen, M.J.