Probiotics boost aging immune system

Elderly people are at increased risk of infection due to the age-related decline in immune system function. In a recent study, scientists looked into how supplementing with probiotics might help improve immunity in the elderly. Probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, are beneficial bacteria found in the healthy digestive tract. These bacteria aid digestion, synthesize nutrients and help balance harmful bacteria.

In the study, 27 volunteers consumed milk supplemented with probiotics for three weeks. Researchers report that the probiotics increased the activity of natural killer (NK) cells by up to 101 per cent. NK cells are powerful immune system components that battle infection and cancer.

The researchers also report that “these increases were significantly correlated with age, with subjects older than 70 years experiencing significantly greater improvements than those under 70 years.” They say their results demonstrate that probiotics “may offer benefit to elderly consumers to combat some of the deleterious effects” of a declining immune system.

Source: J Clin Immunol 2001;21:264-271