Probiotics may reduce risks of overweight for children of obese mothers

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The study is said to be the first to examine the potential combined effects of probiotics and fish oil on a child’s growth.    Image © FatCamera / Getty Images
The study is said to be the first to examine the potential combined effects of probiotics and fish oil on a child’s growth. Image © FatCamera / Getty Images

Related tags Probiotics Gut health Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Prenatal Weight management Fish oil

Supplementation with probiotics for overweight or obese women during pregnancy and beyond may lower the odds of the children being overweight, says a new study from Finland.

It is known that children of overweight or obese mothers are at an increased risk for overweight in later life, but preliminary evidence suggested a potential protective role from probiotics or fish oil on child growth.

However, it was not known if such effects would be observed when probiotics and fish oil were combined.

Writing in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, ​the researchers report that prenatal consumption of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus​ HN001 and Bifidobacterium animalis​ ssp. lactis​ 420 with or without fish oil led to a much lower likelihood of the children being obese at 2 years of age.

“Our findings could be utilized in the dietary counseling of the most vulnerable women, that is, those with overweight/obesity, as it is putative that this population would mostly benefit from the intervention,” ​wrote scientists from the University of Turku and Turku University Hospital.

Study details

The double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study included 439 women in early pregnancy with a BMI of at least 25 kg/m2, but no chronic diseases. The women were randomly assigned to one of four groups: fish oil plus placebo, probiotics plus placebo, probiotics plus fish oil, or placebo plus placebo. The supplementation lasted from early pregnancy (average of 14 weeks gestation) until 6 months after the birth of the child.

The fish oil supplement provided 1.9 grams of DHA per day and 0.22 grams of EPA per day (supplied by Croda Europe), while the probiotic contained 10 billion CFUs each of L. rhamnosus​ HN001 and B. animalis​ ssp. lactis​ 420 (both supplied by DuPont, now IFF).

The children were also followed up to 2 years of age, at which stage the researchers had data for 330 child-mother-pairs.

The data showed that children of women in both probiotic groups had lower odds of being overweight by 24 months, compared to placebo plus placebo.  On the other hand, no effect was observed for fish oil, said the researchers.

“We did not find any evidence that fish oil alone affected children’s overweight odds or body fat percentage. The reason for our finding is not clear, but one explanation could be that all the women were overweight/obese, which could have attenuated the effect of n-3 fatty acids,” ​they wrote.

“We conclude that the probiotics consumption on their own or in combination with fish oil from early pregnancy onwards could be beneficial for lowering the overweight odds of 24-month-old children born to mothers with overweight/obesity.

“Probiotics and fish oil administration together seemed to lead slower growth of children, although within the normal reference range.  The clinical significance of this finding needs further elucidation but may support our finding that these children less likely became overweight when they are 24 months old.”

Source: Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
76​(2):p 218-226, doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000003659
“Fish Oil And/Or Probiotics Intervention in Overweight/Obese Pregnant Women and Overweight Risk in 24-Month-Old Children”
Authors: L. Saros, et al.                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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