Turmeric Extract Puts Drugs For Knee Osteoarthritis To Shame


Written by: Sayer Ji

Millions take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) daily for arthritis and related inflammatory conditions, but are completely unaware that far safer, and at least as effective, natural alternatives already exist — and are as easily accessible and inexpensive as the spices found in your kitchen cupboard.

Human research on the health benefits of turmeric is sparse, mainly due to the lack of capital available to fund expensive clinical trials.[i] Despite many decades of investigation as a lead drug compound, and the availability of thousands of preclinical studies indicating turmeric’s therapeutic value, few yet realize that this common kitchen spice may provide a suitable drug alternative for common health conditions.

The latest human study to clinically confirm turmeric’s medicinal value was published in the Indonesian Journal of Internal Medicine in April, 2012 and found the curcuminoid extract of turmeric was able to reduce inflammation in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.

Researchers compared the effect of a curcuminoid extract to the NSAID drug diclofenac sodium in reducing cycloxygenase -2 (COX-2) secretion by synovial fluid’s monocytes in two, randomly divided, groups suffering with knee osteoarthritis.

The synovial fluid is an egg yolk-like liquid within the cavities of the synovial joints, which serves to reduce friction between articular cartilage during movement. In knee osteoarthritis, a condition that afflicts 1 in 2 people by the age of 85 years, the immune cells known as monocytes express increased inflammatory COX-2 enzyme activity within the synovial fluid.

In the study, subjects were given either 30 mg 3 times daily of turmeric extract (curcuminoid) or 25 mg 3 times daily of diclofenac sodium for 4 weeks. After the treatment period, aspiration of the joint as performed and the secretion of cycloxygenase-2 enzyme by synovial fluid’s monocytes was evaluated.

Results were reported as follows:

In curcuminoid group the average scores were 1.84±0.37 and 1.15±0.28 respectively (p<0.001). In diclofenac group the average scores were 1.79±0.38 and 1.12±0.27 respectively (p<0.001). In curcuminoid group the decreasing score of cycloxygenase-2 secretion was 0.70±0.51 while in diclofenac group was 0.67±0.45. There was no significant difference in decreasing the score of cycloxygenase enzyme secretion between both treatment groups (p=0.89).

In summary, both curcuminoid and diclofenac sodium were capable of significantly decreasing the secretion of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme, with nearly identical potency.


This is not the first human study to confirm turmeric is at least as effective as an NSAID drug in reducing the symptoms associated with knee osteoarthritis. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found 2,000 mg of turmeric extract was as effective as 800 mg of ibuprofen in reducing symptoms of pain and inflammation.[ii]

What is most remarkable about the more recent study is not that turmeric curcuminoids have potent anti-inflammatory properties – there are already hundreds of studies confirming its COX-2 reducing and otherwise anti-inflammary effects — but rather how much safer they are relative to NSAID drugs like diclofenac, which like most pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs have been linked to adverse health effects such as increased cardiac mortality, miscarriage and seizure.



6 Surprising Chronic Pain Triggers

pain_killersBy Emily Main

There’s nothing worse than suffering from debilitating chronic pain—except, perhaps, not knowing why you’re in pain or how to cope.

Treating these mysterious aches has become the mission of Gary Kaplan, DO, a pioneer of integrative medicine and director of the Kaplan Clinic for Integrative Medicine in McLean, Virginia. He treats people with chronic pain every day. In Kaplan’s new book, Total Recovery: Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Pain and Depression, he addresses the root causes of chronic pain, and how most doctors are going about treating it in all the wrong ways.

“Treating chronic pain is never as straightforward as treating a bacterial infection,” he writes. “As a medical scientist, I was convinced that when patients in chronic pain had a history of emotional, physical, and infectious assaults, all of those assaults must somehow be working together.”

In his decades of treating chronic pain, he’s found some surprising causes of people’s misery, such as these six:

#1: Emotional trauma. Doctors are increasingly realizing that deep-seated emotional pain from a past trauma, be it abuse or post-traumatic stress, can manifest itself as chronic physical pain. Dr. Kaplan notes that research hasn’t yet uncovered what links the two, but in his practice, he writes, he’s found that patients who have chronic pain that doesn’t respond to traditional treatments have, upon further evaluation, often had some traumatic experience in their lives.

One prevailing theory, he says, is that emotional trauma, physical injury, or environmental toxins appear to stimulate microglia, molecules that live in the central nervous system that spew out a continuous supply of inflammatory chemicals whenever they’re stressed. Your body’s response to this constant inflammation manifests itself in two significant ways: chronic pain and psychological disorders like depression and anxiety.

#2: Painkillers. Surprising, but true: Overusing pain killers dulls your body’s response to pain, so you need more, and more potent, painkillers to alleviate chronic pain. But that just leads to increased sensitivity to pain in the long run. Dr. Kaplan says this problem is particularly bad with prescription opiod painkillers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Using painkillers to deal with chronic pain is “shortsighted,” Dr. Kaplan writes.

#3: Poor-quality sleep. Our perception of pain increases when the quality of our sleep is poor, Dr. Kaplan writes. Deep sleep is a time when your muscles have an increased blood supply, which helps with tissue growth and repair. You can see an increase in generalized muscle pain, he adds, within just a week of not getting regular deep sleep. And sleeping pills don’t help, since they just put you to sleep without improving the quality of sleep, which means you might not reach those deep, pain-relieving stages you need to feel better.

#4: Your leaky gut. Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your gut, which is filled with nerves as well as tiny hairs in the walls known as villi that prevent your body from absorbing too many toxins. Taking too many painkillers, or even having food sensitivities like gluten sensitivity, can damage both the nerve endings and those villi, leading to a condition known as “leaky gut.” When your gut “leaks,” undigested food (with sometimes problematic proteins like gluten), bacteria, and other environmental chemicals that can cause those microglia to get stimulated and lead to chronic pain.

#5: Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, Dr. Kaplan notes, and good health is practically impossible if you don’t have enough. And most of us don’t. In fact, 57 percent of Americans don’t get enough. But this vital mineral blocks your brain’s receptors of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that can cause neurons to be hypersensitive to pain. Dr. Kaplan says he prescribes intravenous magnesium to many of his chronic pain patients, but you can get your daily recommended amount easily if you load up on leafy greens, dried apricots, avocados, brown rice, almonds, cashews, and bananas.

#6: Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, carried predominantly by the black-legged, or deer, tick. Roughly 32,000 cases are diagnosed every year, and that number will surely rise as climate change allows ticks to survive longer and travel into new regions.

Dr. Kaplan writes that the standard treatment for Lyme disease is a two- to four-week course of antibiotics—which can damage your gut—but as much as 20 percent of treated Lyme sufferers develop Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, which is characterized by achy joints and can linger six months or longer after treatment. Research into this syndrome is ongoing, he adds, but many scientists theorize that Lyme can provoke an autoimmune response that continues long after the antibiotics have killed the bacteria, leaving people suffering from debilitating pain even as tests don’t detect any lingering signs of the disease.




Doctors denying Vaccine Risks An American Tragedy, April 25, 2011

Doctors denying Vaccine Risks An American Tragedy, April 25, 2011, Barbara Loe Fisher, National Vaccine Information Center, NVIC.

Anyone with young children in their lives should watch this video. This happened to my oldest daughter. She was on her third shot of DPT and thanks to the work of this woman, Barbara Loe Fisher, I was aware that there were problems with vaccines. I have no doubt that knowledge saved my daughter’s life.

Big Study: Vaccinated Kids 2-5 More Diseases Than Unvaccinated

Preventable Vaccine-induced Diseases

vaccinationsA German study released in September 2011 of about 8000 UNVACCINATED children, newborn to 19 years, show vaccinated children have at least 2 to 5 times more diseases and disorders than unvaccinated children.

The results are presented in the bar chart below; the complete data and study results are here. The data is compared to the national German KIGGS health study of the children in the general population. Most of the respondents to the survey were from the U.S. (Click on the chart to see it better)

The data was collected from parents with vaccine-free children via an internet questionnaire by vaccineinjury.info and Andreas Bachmair, a German classical homeopathic practitioner. The independent study is self-funded and is not sponsored by a large “credible” non-profit or government health organization with political and financial conflicts of interest; hence Bachmair relies on Google ads and donations for revenue. Each one of the 8000 cases are actual cases with medical documentation. Three other studies had similar results according to Bachmair and are reported below.

No study of health outcomes of vaccinated people versus unvaccinated has ever been conducted in the U.S. by CDC or any other agency in the 50 years or more of an accelerating schedule of vaccinations (now over 50 doses of 14 vaccines given before kindergarten, 26 doses in the first year). Most data collected by CDC is contained in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database. The VAERS is generally thought to contain only 3 to 5 percent of reportable incidents. This is simply because only some immediate reactions are reported by doctors; but many are not admitted to be reactions to the vaccine. Most importantly, the VAERS numbers are only immediate reactions, which I would place with a few hours to a few weeks. Long-term vaccine-induced diseases and disorders are not recognized by parents or doctors when these conditions develop perhaps a few months to five years or more and would never be realized to come from multiple vaccinations. In other words, many children and adults have diseases and disorders that are vaccine induced and they never suspect they are from the vaccines, as this study indicates.

The comparisons of the health of vaccine-free children with the health statistics of the general population are the same as comparing unvaccinated with vaccinated. This is simply because the general population of U.S. children are nearly 100 percent vaccinated.

Only four of the unvaccinated 8000 responded with severeautism (0.05%) and these were said to be high mercury cases. On the other hand, I had noticed the results show about a 1% rate for autism in the unvaccinated over 3 years old–about the same as vaccinated children. So I asked Bachmair why the data does not show significantly less. He told me he had invited many autism groups and internet autism lists to participate and thus skewed the results accordingly. If the true rate is 0.5%, I calculated that only 40 extra respondents (above the true average number) responded yes to autism, it would skew the results by a factor of 2. If the true rate is 0.25%, only 60 additional respondents (above the true average number) of the 8000 responded yes to autism, it would skew the results by a factor of 4. So it would not take many respondents from these lists to skew the results significantly.

The only other bias in this study may include the fact that parents of unvaccinated children are obviously concerned about the health risks of vaccines, and are more likely to make other healthier choices such as feeding their children a much better diet and using more natural remedies and using fewer pharmaceuticals.

Now half the U.S. children suffer from chronic diseases and disorders and 21% are developmentally disabled. Yet the public health system always uses the sacred mantra “vaccine-preventable diseases” when referring to their top public health achievement of mass vaccinations. I think we should be talking more in terms of preventable vaccine-induced diseases.

The survey is still ongoing and you may take the survey here if you have unvaccinated children.

Other studies were cited by Andreas Bachmair

Salzburger Study

Results: of 1004 unvaccinated children, had

Asthma, 0% (8-12% in the normal population)

A-topic dermatitis 1.2% (10-20% in the normal population)

Allergies 3% (25% in the normal population)

ADHD 0.79% (5-10%) in children

Longterm Study in Guinea-Bissau (1 Kristensen I, Aaby P, Jensen H.:“Routine vaccinations and child survival: follow up study in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa”, BMJ 2000; 321: 1435–41)

The children of 15,000 mothers were observed from 1990 to 1996 for 5 years.

Result: the death rate in vaccinated children against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough is twice as high as the unvaccinated children (10.5% versus 4.7%).

New Zealand Survey (1992) (http://www.ias.org.nz)

Download and read the IAS1992study now.

By Mr. Augie, Contributing Writer



Dieting Forces Brain To Cannibalize

Submitted by Lois Rain

Diet eats brainModern dieting misinformation abounds: “Eat few calories! No fat! Tiny portions! Less food!” All of which might be all right if people were actually getting loads of nutrition, which is why this writer refers to current dieting fads altogether as “The Starvation Diet.”

In the midst of all the dieting confusion, comes an under-the-radar claim from scientists that dieting literally forces the brain to eat itself!

Just as other parts of the body such as muscles begin to cannibalize, brain cells eat themselves as a last resort to keep the body from starving to death. This inevitably creates a more intense hunger and sets up a bad cycle for weight gain.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York were really on to something when they discovered the process of autophagy (literally, self eating self) in test mice placed on diets. However, their findings are geared towards finding the new best weight loss treatments, i.e. drugs to trick the brain out of self-cannibalism. Even though lack of nutrition was the basis for autophagy, more nutrition simply couldn’t be the solution to keep the brain from pulling a zombie attack on itself.

Their findings, reported in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism, do present evidence that supports the claim that diets (without nutrition as a basis) do not work; thus, the yo-yo effect. Extreme dieting can cause other damage as well. The Biggest Loser strength coach, Jillian Michaels, learned the hard way after years of trying rigid diet fads. She explains in her book, Master Your Metabolism, how she destroyed her metabolism in the early days and sadly, lost the use of her thyroid.

Previously, it was believed that the brain was able to resist the starvation-cannibal response. Dr Rajat Singh, who led the study, had found a similar starvation-induced response in the liver.

The new evidence shows that lipids within the so-called agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons are mobilized following autophagy, generating free fatty acids. Those fatty acids in turn boost levels of AgRP, itself a hunger signal. -Prevent Disease

Singh mentioned, “A pathway that is really important for every cell to turn over components in a kind of housekeeping process is also required to regulate appetite…Treatments aimed at the pathway might make you less hungry and burn more fat, a good way to maintain energy balance in a world where calories are cheap and plentiful.”

The researchers wrote that, “The present study demonstrates the unique nature of hypothalamic neurons in their ability to upregulate autophagy in response to starvation that is consistent with the roles of these neurons in feeding and energy homeostasis.” They showed that when autophagy is blocked in AgRP neurons, AgRP levels fail to rise in response to starvation.

Of course, whenever research leads to such discoveries, their conclusions almost always recommend new drugs that shut down neuro-pathways allowing obesity-laden folks to keep living the same nutritionless lifestyle, while eating less, and burning more.

Yeah, that sounds much healthier.

~Health Freedoms




Glaxo chief: Our drugs do not work on most patients

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

A senior executive with Britain’s biggest drugs company has admitted that most prescription medicines do not work on most people who take them.

Allen Roses, worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), said fewer than half of the patients prescribed some of the most expensive drugs actually derived any benefit from them.

It is an open secret within the drugs industry that most of its products are ineffective in most patients but this is the first time that such a senior drugs boss has gone public. His comments come days after it emerged that the NHS drugs bill has soared by nearly 50 per cent in three years, rising by £2.3bn a year to an annual cost to the taxpayer of £7.2bn. GSK announced last week that it had 20 or more new drugs under development that could each earn the company up to $1bn (£600m) a year.

Dr Roses, an academic geneticist from Duke University in North Carolina, spoke at a recent scientific meeting in London where he cited figures on how well different classes of drugs work in real patients.

Drugs for Alzheimer’s disease work in fewer than one in three patients, whereas those for cancer are only effective in a quarter of patients. Drugs for migraines, for osteoporosis, and arthritis work in about half the patients, Dr Roses said. Most drugs work in fewer than one in two patients mainly because the recipients carry genes that interfere in some way with the medicine, he said.

“The vast majority of drugs – more than 90 per cent – only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people,” Dr Roses said. “I wouldn’t say that most drugs don’t work. I would say that most drugs work in 30 to 50 per cent of people. Drugs out there on the market work, but they don’t work in everybody.”

Some industry analysts said Dr Roses’s comments were reminiscent of the 1991 gaffe by Gerald Ratner, the jewellery boss, who famously said that his high street shops are successful because they sold “total crap”. But others believe Dr Roses deserves credit for being honest about a little-publicised fact known to the drugs industry for many years.

“Roses is a smart guy and what he is saying will surprise the public but not his colleagues,” said one industry scientist. “He is a pioneer of a new culture within the drugs business based on using genes to test for who can benefit from a particular drug.”

Dr Roses has a formidable reputation in the field of “pharmacogenomics” – the application of human genetics to drug development – and his comments can be seen as an attempt to make the industry realise that its future rests on being able to target drugs to a smaller number of patients with specific genes.

The idea is to identify “responders” – people who benefit from the drug – with a simple and cheap genetic test that can be used to eliminate those non-responders who might benefit from another drug.

This goes against a marketing culture within the industry that has relied on selling as many drugs as possible to the widest number of patients – a culture that has made GSK one of the most profitable pharmaceuticals companies, but which has also meant that most of its drugs are at best useless, and even possibly dangerous, for many patients.

Dr Roses said doctors treating patients routinely applied the trial-and-error approach which says that if one drug does not work there is always another one. “I think everybody has it in their experience that multiple drugs have been used for their headache or multiple drugs have been used for their backache or whatever.

“It’s in their experience, but they don’t quite understand why. The reason why is because they have different susceptibilities to the effect of that drug and that’s genetic,” he said.

“Neither those who pay for medical care nor patients want drugs to be prescribed that do not benefit the recipient. Pharmacogenetics has the promise of removing much of the uncertainty.”

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

Chiropractic: A Safer Alternative to Deadly Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Drugs

HRT drugs cause breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, serious blood clots, dementia, and even brain shrinkage. MenopauseHormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) drugs (a combination of estrogen and progesterone) are still prescribed frequently for relief from sleep-disrupting night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings. Despite clearly documented risks, about 15 percent of postmenopausal women in the United States still take hormone therapy. Others suffer needlessly, when safe, gentle, effective chiropractic care may provide relief.

The risks of taking the combination of estrogen and progesterone—breast cancer, stroke, serious blood clots, dementia, even brain shrinkage—have been well established.

A study published in the February 5, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine, found that taking hormones for a full five years doubles your annual risk of getting breast cancer.

A study based on data from the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial in May, 2009 concluded that use of combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is associated with a higher risk of dying for women diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.

Now a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows an association between hormone use and ovarian cancer—and it kicks in almost immediately after women begin taking hormones.

In the study, which culled the health records of nearly 1 million Danish women, researchers found a 38 percent greater risk of ovarian cancer among women who were currently taking hormone therapy. The risks didn’t appear to be affected by the types of hormones women were taking, the dose, the duration, or whether they were taking estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progesterone.

Unfortunately, bioidentical hormones—which have been touted by some as safer than traditional hormone therapy—are associated with the same increased ovarian cancer risk.

Women in the Danish study all took estradiol, a bioidentical hormone that has the same chemical structure as estrogen made by the body. And there was no difference in cancer risk between women who took non-identical synthetic progestin and those who took bioidentical progesterone.

Chiropractic care has an important and unique role in women’s health, including during menopause. Its benefits warrant exploration and consideration by all women.

Chiropractic care serves to promote function and repair communication and coordination of the nerve system through subluxation detection and correction. These factors can influence the success of the complex hormonal system, the stress response system and the immune system, to name a few areas important to women’s health.

How exactly does chiropractic care impact menopause symptoms? Here’s how it works.

Estrogen and progesterone are stimulated by the anterior pituitary gland, which is controlled by the hypothalamus portion of your brain. The hypothalamus is often referred to as the master control of your body, because it regulates and controls so many functions.

The hypothalamus receives its information from the internal organs through the nerve system that is housed within your spine.

The hypothalamus, in addition to regulating estrogen and progesterone, also receives information from other sections of your brain as well, such as your thalamus and limbic system. These systems control critical, delicate functions of your body such as emotions, sexual desire, thirst and hunger, body temperature, and sleep patterns.

Chiropractic specifically deals with your nerve system and spine. The spine, when under stress, irritates and decreases the function of the nerves that send the signals to control the levels of estrogen and progesterone. Simple stresses such as sitting for long periods, preservatives in foods, or a stressful day at work, can easily and often cause the spine to misalign causing subluxation.

Chiropractors reduce or eliminate these misalignments (subluxations) with safe, gentle chiropractic adjustments of the spinal vertebrae.

Since the nervous system controls all the functions of your body, it is imperative that you get your spine checked by a chiropractor regularly.

Simply getting under chiropractic care, exercising regularly, eating as many “hormone free” foods as possible (read the labels) and getting proper rest will help regulate and balance your hormonal system and help manage and diminish the effects of menopause.

Doesn’t that sound like a better idea than taking a drug that causes breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, serious blood clots, dementia, and even brain shrinkage?

Spine: Higher body fat leads to increased back pain

Spine: Higher body fat leads to increased back painPhiladelphia, Pa. – Increased back pain among people who are overweight or obese is specifically related to increased body fat content, reports a study in the September 15 issue of Spine. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

With further research, interventions to prevent increased fat mass may help to reduce the risks of back pain and related disability, according to the new study, led by Donna M. Urquhart, Ph.D., of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. For her research, Dr. Urquhart was named winner of Spine’s 2011 Young Investigator Award.

Increased Fat Mass Linked to Back Pain—But Which Comes First?

The study included 135 participants, ranging from normal weight to obese. All completed a standard questionnaire to measure low back pain intensity and related disability. They also underwent a test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry for detailed assessment of body composition, including measurement of fat and lean body mass.

The results showed that heavier people had higher levels of back pain intensity. For each five-unit increase in body mass index (BMI)—equivalent to the difference between being classified as overweight or obese—the odds of high-intensity back pain increased by 35 percent. For back pain disability, the association was even stronger: 66 percent per five-unit increase in BMI.

However, the increase in back pain at higher BMIs was specifically related to increased fat mass. For each five-kilogram (eleven pounds) increase in body fat mass, the odds of high-intensity back pain increased by 19 percent. For increased fat mass in the lower limbs, the increase was 51 percent.

In contrast, lean body mass was unrelated to back pain. Thus the increase in back pain intensity among people with higher BMIs was wholly related to their higher body fat content—not just the fact that they were heavier. People with higher body fat also had increased disability from back pain.

Back pain and disability were also related to specific patterns of body fat—including increased fat in the trunk area, around the abdomen (android fat mass), and around the hips, thighs, and buttocks (gynoid fat mass). On adjustment for possible confounding factors, “[N]o measures of lean tissue mass were associated with higher pain intensity or disability,” Dr. Urquhart and colleagues write.

Low back pain is an extremely common problem that is usually “nonspecific”—unrelated to any spinal abnormality. Particularly with the rising obesity rate, it has been suggested that increased body weight may contribute to back pain. However, previous studies found only a weak relationship. The new study is the first to look at how back pain is related to more detailed measures of body fat—including specific patterns of fat and lean mass distribution.

The results show that greater fat mass is specifically associated with increased back pain and disability, while lean tissue mass is not. Several factors probably contribute to the link between fat mass and back pain, including greater mechanical demands on the spine. Metabolic factors related to higher fat mass—such as increased inflammatory activity—may also play a role.

Because of its cross-sectional design (participants studied once), the study can’t determine which comes first: increased fat mass or back pain. Longitudinal studies (participants studied repeatedly over time) would be needed to determine whether higher fat mass predicts the later development of low back pain. If so, then measures to control body fat might be effective in preventing back pain and related and disability.

Review: Probiotics have slight preventive effect on colds

September 16, 2011 — Taking probiotics seems to provide both children and adults with a mild degree of protection against many upper respiratory tract infections including the common cold, according to a new systematic review.

People who consume probiotics are also less likely to end up taking antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, the review found.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, soy yogurt and kefir. People also often take probiotics as supplements. The reviewers compared how often colds and other respiratory infections occurred in people who consumed probiotics to people who took placebos and found a statistically significant difference.

“Probiotics intervention was better than placebo in reducing the number of participants experiencing episodes of acute upper respiratory tract infections,” said review co-author Quikui Hao in an email. “Limited information from three of the 14 studies we included in our analysis also showed that probiotics can reduce the prescription of antibiotics.”

Hao is a medical student at Sichuan University in China, where he works with lead review author Bi Rong Dong, MD.

Colds and other upper respiratory infections are the most common reason that people in the U.S. seek medical care, the reviewers say. The average American has two to six colds each year, usually mild viral infections that resolve themselves after a few days.

Upper respiratory infections also include tonsillitis, laryngitis, and pharyngitis, an inflammation of the pharynx and the most common cause of a sore throat. Other frequently occurring upper respiratory infections are acute sinusitis, acute middle ear infection, and croup. Symptoms including nasal congestion, sore throats, hoarseness, and coughing.

The researchers based their conclusions on 14 randomized controlled trials that included 3,451 participants. More than two-thirds of participants were children. The average age of adults was 40. Studies were conducted in Australia, Chile, Croatia, Finland, Japan, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S.

Probiotics include a wide variety of live active microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria, also called lactobacillus, and bifidobacteria. The review considered any probiotic, whether it was a single strain or multiple strains, at any dosage level for more than seven days.

There was no difference in how long a respiratory infection lasted in the probiotics group compared to the group consuming placebos. Participants taking probiotics experienced only a few minor side effects. These were mostly gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, flatulence and discomfort or pain in the lower intestinal region.

The researchers found when studying all the pooled data that there were no significant differences in the occurrence of such side effects among people taking probiotics and those taking placebo.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

In Greek, the word “probiotics” means “for life.” Hao said that more than a century ago, Elie Metchnikoff a Nobel Prize-winning researcher in immunology, ran a series of studies that showed that the ingestion of microbes produced by lactic acid, that is probiotics, could help relive both respiratory tract and digestive disorders.

However, more recent studies focusing on the impact of probiotics upon URTIs have been inconclusive, Hao said. “With the increasing consumption of probiotics in fermented foods or as dietary supplements, we feel that it is very important to understand the effects of probiotics on acute URTIs and their potential adverse effects in humans.”

Mohamed Mubasher, PhD, a former associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas, said, “What’s exciting about this research is the fact that probiotics, a drug-free natural product, can potentially boost and enhance the human immune system and also regulate the production of beneficial bacteria within the human system.”

Mubasher said that he considered the authors of this review to have competently evaluated the results of the 14 studies they reviewed. However, he added that with regard to reducing the duration of URTIs, he suspected that many of the studies covered by this analysis were of insufficient sample size to really support such claims.

He also noted a drawback which the authors had themselves acknowledged: Elderly adults were not included among the study participants. As people age, their immune systems weaken. Older adults might stand to benefit significantly from immune system enhancements, even mild ones such as those that probiotics seem to offer to younger people.

Source: Health Behavior News Service, Center for Advancing Health, www.cfah.org/hbns