Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study found that probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling could help reduce the risk of diabetes during pregnancy, improve blood glucose control and improve child health.
“Taken together, long-term health benefits for mothers and children may be conferred by balanced maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation and by promoting the healthy gut microbiota in the mother and the child. The results of the present study add weight to the argument that the continuing burden of Western lifestyle diseases is modifiable,” write the researchers.
Initiated in 2002, the study included 256 women, who were randomized during their first trimester of pregnancy into a control and a dietary intervention group.
The women, none of whom had any chronic diseases, all received dietary counselling provided by welfare clinics according to a national program.
The intervention group received additionally intensive dietary counselling at every study visit provided by a nutritionist, the aim being a dietary intake complying with current recommendations, combined with conventional food products with favourable fat and fibre contents for use at home, said the researchers.
The intervention group was further randomised at baseline in a double-blind manner to receive either placebo capsules or probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG supplied by Valio, and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 supplied by Chr. Hansen) at a dose of 1010 colony-forming units/d each.
The capsules were taken once per day, and the intervention period extended from the first trimester of pregnancy to the end of exclusive breast-feeding.
The researchers evaluated pregnancy outcome and fetal and infant growth during the 24 months’ follow-up.
All pregnancies were of normal duration, and there were no adverse events noted in mothers or in children, which confirms the safety of this approach, said the researchers.
They noted that those women who had taken probiotics had a reduced frequency of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM): 13 percent for the diet/probiotics group, compared to 36 percent for the diet/placebo group and 34 percent for the control group.
In addition, the dietary counselling during pregnancy reduced the risk of fetal overgrowth, which is thought to predispose to later obesity.
“Probiotic intervention reduced the risk of GDM and dietary intervention diminished the risk of larger birth size in affected cases,” wrote the researchers. “The results of the present study show that probiotic-supplemented perinatal dietary counselling could be a safe and cost-effective tool in addressing the metabolic epidemic. In view of the fact that birth size is a risk marker for later obesity, the present results are of significance for public health in demonstrating that this risk is modifiable.”
Source: Impact of maternal probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling on pregnancy outcome and prenatal and postnatal growth: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study
British Journal of Nutrition (2010)
Authors: Raakel Luoto, Kirsi Laitinen, Merja Nermes and Erika Isolauri