Facts & Figures
Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania
REGIONS IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE
Koumassi district of Abidjan
- Gained ethical approval from Ivoirian government and university
- Partnered with a local company to create a delicious probiotic dêguê
- Completed all baseline cognitive evaluations for over 260 participants
- Collected baseline biological samples from over 250 participants
About the project
Milk ferments with known beneficial effects, known as probiotics, can have positive influences on health and cognition when consumed as a dietary supplement. Despite evidence of these links in animals and adults, little work has examined them in children. This is striking, given the substantial role gut bacteria play in brain development early in life. Moreover, probiotics have the potential to alleviate common health- and nutrition-related problems which may, in turn, improve cognitive capacities. This study aims to improve the basic conditions for learning by promoting health and healthy brain development through the consumption of probiotic dêguê.
In Côte d’Ivoire, 30% of all children have some sort of cognitive or physical disability and 40% of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition. These conditions can lead to cognitive declines and decreased academic performance.
Affordable, healthy supplements to improve gut health, physical health, and potentially even cognitive health are widely available in the Western world but have not yet become common in West Africa.
Probiotics open monumental possibilities to positively guide child cognitive development and health. Pioneering work in Africa has shown that locally produced, affordable probiotic yogurts can reduce morbidity associated with HIV/AIDS, heavy metals, and gastroenteritis in disadvantaged communities in sub-Saharan Africa. This research project also aims to further illuminate the positive effects probiotics may have on other indices of health (e.g., parasite load) and examine their effects on cognition in early childhood. Further, by empowering local communities to make probiotic dêguê, access to the supplement can be increased in Côte d’Ivoire.
Results to date
The data obtained from the baseline collection are currently being analysed. 165 children involved in the study received a probiotic fortified dêguê every school day, while the children in the control group (N=99) consumed the regular dêguê according to their usual diet. Preliminary findings show some observed improvements in children’s cognitive in numeracy and executive function tests over the testing period. However, a significant effect of probiotic consumption on cognition has not been detected. The study has experienced some challenges including teachers’ strikes and children that did not receive treatment consistently due to disruptions in dêguê production. All of these external factors may have affected the results. These are preliminary results; the research team is still analyzing other biological data collected in this study.
Probiotics often have beneficial effects on emotions and cognition in animals and adults. Additionally, positive effects on infant, child, and adult health have been found. Therefore, probiotics could potentially improve child cognition directly or indirectly through their beneficial effects on health.