British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers


Influence of a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and lactitol on healthy elderly: intestinal and immune parameters

Arthur C. Ouwehanda1 c1, Kirsti Tiihonena1, Markku Saarinena1, Heli Putaalaa1 and Nina Rautonena1

a1 Health and Nutrition, Danisco, Sokeritehtaantie 20, 02460 Kantvik, Finland


With increasing age, a number of physiological changes take place which are reflected in immune and bowel function. These changes may relate to the commonly assumed age-related changes in intestinal microbiota; most noticeably a reduction in bifidobacteria. The current study aimed at modifying the intestinal microbiota with a potential synbiotic on selected immune and microbiota markers. Healthy elderly subjects were randomised to consume during 2 weeks either a placebo (sucrose) or a combination of lactitol and Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM twice daily in a double-blind parallel trial. After the intervention, stool frequency was higher in the synbiotic group than in the placebo group and a significant increase in faecal L. acidophilus NCFM levels was observed in the synbiotic group, after baseline correction. In contrast to the generally held opinion, the study subjects had faecal Bifidobacterium levels that were similar to those reported in healthy young adults. These levels were, nevertheless, significantly increased by the intervention. Levels of SCFA were not changed significantly. Of the measured immune markers, PGE2 levels were different between treatments and IgA levels changed over time. These changes were modest which may relate to the fact that the volunteers were healthy. Spermidine levels changed over time which may suggest an improved mucosal integrity and intestinal motility. The results suggest that consumption of lactitol combined with L. acidophilus NCFM twice daily may improve some markers of the intestinal microbiota composition and mucosal functions.

(Received June 21 2007)

(Revised April 28 2008)

(Accepted April 29 2008)

(Online publication July 18 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Arthur Ouwehand, fax +358 9 2982203, email


Abbreviations: CFU, colony-forming units; NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs