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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;56 Suppl 4:S16-20.

The role of fermented milk in complementary feeding of young children: lessons from transition countries.

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Human Nutrition Unit, National Institute for Research on Food and Nutrition, Rome, Italy.


Probiotic bacteria are used for production of fermented dairy products. The use of probiotic bacteria has the potential to replenish the natural intestinal flora of the body. These bacteria competitively inhibit the growth and colonization of pathogenic bacteria. Breastmilk is the best food for babies, also from a probiotic point of view. Human milk, in fact, contains many substances that stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria in vitro and in the small intestine of infants. Improvement of lactose digestion and avoidance of symptoms of intolerance in lactose malabsorbers are the most profoundly studied health-relevant effects of fermented milk. In fact fermented milks are nutritionally similar to unfermented milk, except that some of lactose is broken down to glucose and galactose. The role of fermented milk in complementary feeding and in particular for the prevention of anaemia is an innovative theme, recently focused. Iron deficiency in infants and young children is widespread and has serious consequences for child health. Prevention of iron deficiency should therefore be given high priority. The too-early introduction of unmodified cow's milk and milk products is an important nutritional risk factors for the development of iron-deficiency anaemia. Fermented milks represent an excellent source of nutrients such as calcium, protein, phosphorus and riboflavin. During the fermentation of milk, lactic acid and other organic acids are produced and these increase the absorption of iron. If fermented milk is consumed at mealtimes, these acids are likely to have a positive effect on the absorption of iron from other foods.

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