The New Brunswick dairy industry and a Quebec probiotics company are funding a study that will examine whether adding probiotics to milk could help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety.

The study being undertaken at the provincial dairy laboratory in Fredericton is analyzing milk from producers in the Maritimes for butterfat, protein content and other indicators. Each sample is being tracked by bar code to milk from specific farms.

Joan Allaby, the laboratory’s manager, is working with Anne Baccardax, a master's student in clinical psychology at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.

The researchers are trying to find out whether adding probiotics, beneficial bacteria, as a milk supplement might help children with anxiety and ADHD.

"There's been some past research that's shown benefits of probiotics on depression and anxiety in adults and there's also a link between the gut and the brain called the gut-brain axis," Baccardax said.

Millk study

The research study is analyzing milk from producers around the Maritimes for butterfat, protein content and other indicators, with each sample tracked by bar code to milk from specific farms. (CBC)

"So that's kind of what our study's based on, the belief that the balance in your gut, if that gets out of line, that can actually affect what happens in your brain. So, we're theorizing that probiotics can help restore balance within the gut and in turn help some psychological symptoms."

Lallemand Health Solutions, a probiotic company in Quebec, is one of the sponsors of the study, which will involve children aged six to 16 who have symptoms of ADHD and anxiety.

Baccadax said she hopes the study will include 100 children.

They will take a probiotic supplement and a placebo in their milk for two trials — each lasting a week — and their symptoms will be tracked for any improvement.

Probiotic study hopefully a 'win-win for society'

David Walker, a senior project executive with the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries and executive director of the non-profit organization Milk 2020, said the industry is eagerly awaiting the study's findings.

Anne Baccardax

Anne Baccardax, a master's student in clinical psychology at Acadia University, is studying whether putting probiotics in milk has any impact on children with anxiety or ADHD. (CBC)

Milk 2020 was set up by the province's dairy producers and processors with the objective of bringing more research and development, and innovation to the dairy industry.

"We are waiting for the results," Walker said.

"We would like to see the results of the study and hope that it indicates that consuming a probiotic using milk as the delivery mechanism would help reduce the effects of anxiety and ADHD in children. It would be a win-win for society."

The study will cost $15,000. Milk 2020 is investing $7,500.

No New Brunswick government money is being invested in the research.