Available reviews have shown potential effects of probiotics on neurobehavioral outcomes through ‘gut-brain axis’ mechanism in adults. However, reviews on cognitive function in children and adolescents are lacking. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of the effect of probiotic supplementation on cognitive function in children and adolescents. A search of four databases (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PsycARTICLES, Scopus, PubMed) was conducted to identify RCTs published from January 1990 to December 2018. Seven studies met the inclusion criteria and their cognitive outcomes were analysed. Only one study found a positive result with GG (LGG) 1×10 cfu supplementation with outcomes on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or Asperger syndrome (AS) manifestations as diagnosed using the International Classification of Diseases-10 criteria. The supplementations were administered to Finnish mothers for 4 weeks before delivery and continuously given for 6 months after delivery if they breastfed, or to the children. ADHD or AS was diagnosed at the age of 13 years in 17.1% children in the placebo and none in the probiotic group (P=0.008). This study found significant differences in species composition and number of cells belonging to the genus between healthy children and children who later developed ADHD or AS at different time points. Six remaining studies with varying strains, durations of intervention, start-time of administration, and outcomes demonstrated no difference in cognition after probiotic supplementation. Metagenomic analyses on gut microbiota composition were not performed in any of these studies. In conclusion, the favourable effect of probiotic supplementation on cognitive function in children and adolescents was observed in one study with LGG supplementation by a risk reduction of developing ADHD or AS (i.e. autism). More long-term and follow-up trials using probiotics identifying the effect on cognition are warranted before routine use.
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