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More Research Is Needed on Use of Prebiotics in Infants
Review finds some evidence these supplements may prevent allergy in formula-fed babies

THURSDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- There is some evidence that supplementation with a prebiotic may prevent eczema in formula-fed infants, but more research is needed before routine use of prebiotics can be recommended, according to a review published online March 28 in The Cochrane Library.

David A. Osborn and John K. H. Sinn, from the University of Sydney in Australia, reviewed the literature to identify randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials that compared the use of a prebiotic to no prebiotic or compared different prebiotics in infants for the prevention of allergy.

The researchers found four eligible studies involving 1,428 infants with allergy outcomes reported from 4 months to 2 years of age. There was a high risk of attrition bias in all of the studies. Two studies (226 infants) included in meta-analysis found there to be no significant difference in infant asthma, although there was significant heterogeneity between the studies. Including all four studies in the meta-analysis identified a significant reduction in eczema (1,218 infants, typical risk ratio 0.68; number needed to treat to benefit 25). There was no significant heterogeneity between the studies. In subgroup analysis, there were no significant differences based on infant allergy risk or infant feed type. A significant reduction in asthma and eczema was found from supplementation with a mixture of galacto- and fructooligosaccharide (GOS/FOS 9:1 ratio; 8 g/L) in infants at high risk of allergy, and in eczema from supplementation with GOS/FOS (9:1; 6.8 g/L) and acidic oligosacccharide (1.2 g/L) in non-high risk infants, according to findings in individual studies.

"Further research is needed before routine use of prebiotics can be recommended for prevention of allergy in formula-fed infants," the authors write.

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