Probiotic Use in Patients Categorized As Overweight or Obese Associated with Reduced Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Probiotic bacteria
Probiotic bacteria
Researchers investigated the impact of probiotic use on the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection symptoms in patients considered overweight or obese.

The following article is a part of conference coverage from the Digestive Disease Week 2021 Annual Meeting , held virtually from May 21 to 23, 2021. The team at Gastroenterology Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading experts in gastroenterology. Check back for more from DDW 2021.


Probiotic use by patients who are classified as overweight or obese was associated with a reduction in upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms, according to data presented at Digestive Disease Week 2021.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo control trial, 220 participants with body mass indexes (BMI) between 25-34.9 kg/m2 received either daily Lab4P probiotics (50 billion colony-forming units, containing 3 strains of Lactobacilli and 2 strains of Bifidobacteria) or placebo for 6 months (ISRCTN registry number: ISRCTN12562026). The self-reported daily symptom diaries of participants where then analyzed, with a focus on symptomatic indicators of URTI such as cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and wheezing.

Significant decreases favoring the probiotic arm were identified in body weight (1.3 kg; P <.0001) and BMI (0.045 kg/m2; P <.0001). In the probiotics group, participants also experienced a 27% lower overall incidence of URTI symptoms (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.73; 95% CI, 0.63-0.84; P <.0001).

There were also significant interactions between symptom incidence and age (P =.0071) and BMI (P =.0393). Compared with younger participants, those aged over 45 years had a greater reduction in symptoms (IRR, 0.60; P <.0001 vs IRR, 0.90; P =.3336). The same was true of participants who were considered obese compared with overweight (IRR, 0.57; P <.0001 vs IRR, 0.78; P =.0059). A clear indication of a divergence between groups was found in the time taken to record first symptoms at weeks 1-2, favoring the probiotic arm.

According to investigators, probiotics are associated with, “a more marked reduction in URTI symptoms in overweight/obese people than in their counterparts.” Adding that the preventative benefits, “are most notable in obese and/or older participants, and occur rapidly after commencing probiotics.”

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Mullish B, Marchesi J, Pass DA, Michael D, Plummer S, Wang D. Daily probiotic use is associated with a reduced rate of upper respiratory tract symptoms in overweight and obese people. Presented at: Digestive Disease Week Annual Meeting; May 21-23, 2021. Abstract 739.