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Summary

Background  Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) has been rarely evaluated as a primary endpoint in the assessment of the effect of probiotics on the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Aim  To study the effects of fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010 and yoghurt strains on the IBS in a multicentre, double-blind, controlled trial.

Methods  A total of 274 primary care adults with constipation-predominant IBS (Rome II) were randomized to consume for 6 weeks either the test fermented milk or a heat-treated yoghurt (control). HRQoL and digestive symptoms were assessed after 3 and 6 weeks on an intention-to-treat population of 267 subjects.

Results  The HRQoL discomfort score, the primary endpoint, improved (P < 0.001) in both groups at weeks 3 and 6. The responder rate for the HRQoL discomfort score was higher (65.2 vs. 47.7%, P < 0.005), as was the decrease in bloating score [0.56 ± (s.d.)1.01 vs. 0.31 ± 0.87, P = 0.03], at week 3 in the test vs. the control group. In those subjects with <3 stools/week, stool frequency increased (P < 0.001) over 6 weeks in the test vs. control group.

Conclusions  This study suggests a beneficial effect of a probiotic food on discomfort HRQoL score and bloating in constipation-predominant IBS, and on stool frequency in subjects with <3 stools/week.