A systematic review evaluated the effects of addition of prebiotics and postbiotics to infant formula on growth and other clinical outcomes in preterm and low birth weight infants. The results of the study were published in the Nutrition Journal.
Probiotics are good bacteria that confer health benefits in the recipients. Prebiotics on the other hand, are non-digestible food ingredients found in fruit and vegetables like inulin, fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharide that stimuate the growth and/or activity of certain bacteria in the colon and improve the host's health. Probiotics and prebiotics are added to preterm infant formula is to improve growth and development, and decrease infections, thereby resulting in an intestinal microbiota resembling that of breastfed infants.
AdvertisementThis review was carried out to assess the growth rate among preterm or low birth weight babies after the use of prebiotic or probiotic infant formula, and to decide if these formulas did show a visible increase in the growth rate and improvement in clinical outcomes. It evaluated date from various published and ongoing studies on the same topic.
The researchers did not find any significant improvement in weight gain following addition of probiotics to infant formula in preterm infants. It also did not show any significant reduction in complications like necrotizing enterocolitis, sepsis and death as compared to infants who did not receive probiotics.
The addition of prebiotics also did not result in weight gain or head growth. However, the addition of fructo-oligosaccharide was associated with an increase in linear growth of the infants. Some short term benefits were observed with prebiotic use like increased bifidobacteria counts and the presence of fewer disease-causing bacteria in the prebiotic group compared to control group.
The studies that were evaluated in this review were too few in number and were conducted over a very short duration. Hence, the benefits or harms of using prebiotics and postbiotics cannot be concluded based on this study. Further studies are necessary to establish and recommend the use of these agents in preterm and low birth weight infants.