Synbiotic helps obese subjects avoid weight gain during study

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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©Getty Images - moodboard

Related tags synbiotics Probiotics Prebiotics Obesity Weight management

A synbiotic supplement prevented weight gain among obese subjects while a control group continued to gain weight, a new study has found.

The study was published recently in a journal called the Annals of Medicine and Surgery​.  The research was the work of experts associated with two universities in Makassar, Indonesia.

Growing, intractable problem

The rising tide of obesity has become a worldwide problem.  While the issue has been obscured somewhat by the global pandemic, it continues on apace. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, and 650 million of those were obese.  In 2020, WHO estimated that more than 39 million children aged 5 and under were obese.  The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled in the 1975-2016 time frame.

Along with the rising tide of obesity has come a concomitant increase in diabetes.  WHO statistics show that 422 million people worldwide now suffer with the disease, which kills 1.6 million people annually.

The reasons for this development are both murky and multifactorial.  Is it not enough exercise, with young people growing up in front of video screens and consumed by handheld devices?  Too much sugar and not enough whole food consumption?

Finding a nutritional solution to the problem has been a goal of research for decades.  While certain ingredients and approaches have shown limited utility, to date no universally and markedly effective solution has been found, with the possible exception of ephedrine alkaloids, which were taken off of the market because of safety concerns.

Focus on the microbiome

But the search continues, with much recent attention devoted to the state of obese individuals’ microbiomes.  Research has shown that the microbiomes of obese individuals differ from those of people at a healthy weight.  Whether that implies a causal relationship is something researchers are still trying to determine.

The Indonesian researchers were seeking to test whether causing a shift in obese individuals’ microbiomes might cause them to lose weight and improve their fasting blood glucose levels.  For their placebo controlled trial they recruited 40 younger obese participants, about evenly split between men and women.   The average age was about 20 and average BMI was about 32.  Only 16 subjects completed the full trial, eight in each group.

The subjects took a placebo or a daily dose of the synbiotic supplement, branded as Rillus, which contains 1 billion CFU of live cells, split between Lactobacillus Plantarum​, Streptococcus thermophilous ​and Bifidobacterium bifidum​ 2.5 mg as well as 480 mg of fructooligosaccharide, a prebiotic fiber. The intervention lasted for 8 weeks, with a follow up after another 4 weeks to see if any changes persisted. Both groups ate their accustomed diets and maintained their accustomed activity (or lack thereof) during the test period.

Is no weight gain still a win?

The researchers did not observe any significant change in body weight or BMI in the experimental group.  But the placebo group continued to gain weight during the trial, by an average of 3.38 kg per individual.  While the researchers did not see the weight loss they seemed to be expecting, they took some comfort in the fact that the synbiotic group  continued to hold steady during the four week washout period and did not resume gaining weight at the pace observed in the placebo group.

“Although body weight and BMI were not decreased by synbiotic supplement, it may prevent body weight increase over time in obese subjects or may need more time to decrease. Synbiotic supplementation might lower fasting blood glucose in obese subjects before body weight and BMI were changed. Those beneficial effects of synbiotic supplement on BW, BMI and FBG in obese subjects persisted after 4 weeks of supplement termination. The role of synbiotic on anthropometric, body composition, and metabolic parameters requires further large-scale and long-term studies,” ​they concluded.

Source:Annals of Medicine and Surgery
Effects of synbiotic supplement on body weight and fasting blood glucose levels in obesity: A randomized placebo-controlled trial
Authors: Anggeraini AS, et al.

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