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Probiotics May Boost Immune Function For Smokers

Quitting smoking is really the only way to mitigate the negative health effects of cigarettes. However a recent study suggests that probiotics may enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, boosting the immune system and counteracting some of the damage done by smoking.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of 'G. d'Annunzio' in Italy and the Nippon Medical School in Japan. The findings were published online on December 6, 2011, in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Study participants included 72 Italian men with an average age of 50 who were in good health other than their smoking habit. Half of the group consumed a probiotic consisting of 40 billion lyophilized viable cells of Lactobacillus casei Shirota strain and half of the group consumed a placebo daily for three weeks.

At the end of the study, the probiotic group showed a 17-26% increase of NK activity whereas the placebo group showed only an 8.4-10.5% increase. The probiotic group also reported less nausea and stomach-ache symptoms, reflecting an improvement in gastrointestinal function.

NK cells are a type of white blood cell. They are an important component of the immune system and play a major role in the containment of viral infections.

The researchers warned that these results should not be used as an alternative to quitting smoking. They hope that people will take their research as more proof that smoking has a negative effect on the immune system.

While most commonly linked with improved gut health, probiotics have been shown to have a positive effect on weight loss and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

Dietary sources of probiotics include yogurt, milk and sauerkraut but for many people, taking a high quality supplement is an easier approach. If you choose this option, be sure it is packaged to block light, air and moisture which can easily kill probiotics.

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