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Probiotics plus counseling may boost obesity management

By Stephen Daniells , 25-Oct-2010
Last updated on 25-Oct-2010 at 17:16 GMT

Supplements of probiotic bacteria combined with dietary counseling may reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese after pregnancy, suggests a new study from Finland.

Weight gain for a woman during pregnancy is natural and ensures the healthy development of the infant, but excessive weight gain during pregnancy has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases later in life.

According to new findings of a randomized control trial, combining daily supplements of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (ATCC 53103) and Bifidobacterium lactis with dietary counseling during the first trimester of pregnancy led to a significantly reduced waist circumference for the new mother six months after giving birth.

“Overweight and its most deleterious form, central adiposity, may be taken as a source of global concern and its prevention as an integral part in reducing the risk of metabolic disorders,” wrote researchers led by Kirsi Laitinen from the University of Turku in Clinical Nutrition.

“Means to this end are being sought in a range of life-style factors, probiotics as a component in a balanced diet offering a safe, reasonably economical, practical and potentially effective approach to a condition proved in practice to be one of the most difficult challenges to health care,” they added.

Gut health and weight

The results, previously presented at the European Congress on Obesity and published in the peer-reviewed journal Friday, add to a small but growing body of science linking probiotics to improved metabolic outcomes and improved weight control.

According to the FAO/WHO, probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host".

The first link between gut microflora and weight was presented in a breakthrough paper published in Nature in December 2006 (Vol. 444, pp. 1022-1023, 1027-1031) by Jeffrey Gordon’s group at the University of Washington in St Louis reported that microbial populations in the gut are different between obese and lean people, and that when the obese people lost weight their microflora reverted back to that observed in a lean person, suggesting that obesity may have a microbial component.

The new study reports for the first time that L. rhamnosus GG and B. lactis may produce long-term health benefits in central adiposity, “laying a basis for studies in at-risk populations”, said the researchers.

Study details

Dr Laitinen and her co-workers recruited 256 women and randomly divided them into three groups during the first trimester of pregnancy. Two of the groups received dietary counseling consistent with current recommendations. One of those groups also received the daily probiotic capsules, while the other group received dummy capsules. The third group received placebo capsules and no dietary counseling. Supplementation continued until the women stopped exclusive breastfeeding, up to 6 months.

At the end of the study, the percentage of women with waist sizes of 80 cm or more (31.5 inches) was significantly lower in the probiotic plus counseling group (26.2 percent), compared with the counseling plus placebo group (48.5 percent), and the placebo and no counseling group (51.7 percent).

Average body fat percentage was 28 per cent in the probiotic group, compared to 29 and 30 percent in the diet advice only group and the control group, respectively.

“The impact on adiposity, documented here by the approximation of measured proportion of body fat and waist circumference, may be seen in the improved health and well-being of the mother in the long term,” wrote the researchers.

Weight Management 2010

The subject of gut health and obesity will be explored in detail at the upcoming Weight Management 2010 Virtual Conference and Expo. Dr Chieh Jason Chou from the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, and Professor Patrice Cani from the Univerité Catholique de Louvain in Belgium will present on the topic of gut health and weight management. For more information and to register, please click here .

Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2010.09.009
“Impact of dietary counselling and probiotic intervention on maternal anthropometric measurements during and after pregnancy: A randomized placebo-controlled trial”
Authors: J. Ilmonen, E. Isolauri, T. Poussa, K. Laitinen

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