May 11, 2009

Fighting Flab with Probiotics

The battle of the bulge might be won with the addition of probiotics to the diet.

That's the take home message from Finnish researchers who studied the use of probiotics "“ also known as "good" bacteria -- in 256 pregnant women. Those who took daily probiotic capsules were less likely to be obese a year after the birth of their children than those who did not.

The study looked at three groups of pregnant women. The first was given the daily capsules plus dietary counseling and healthy foods to take home. The second group received the counseling and foods but not the capsules. The third group received no counseling and was given sham capsules for comparison purposes.

At the end of the study, 25 percent of the women who received the probiotics had a body mass index of 30 or more or a waist circumference over 80 centimeters. That compared to 43 percent of the women who received the counseling and healthy foods but no probiotics and 40 percent of those who received no counseling or foods and the sham capsules.

Average body fat percentages for the three groups were 28 percent, 29 percent, and 30 percent, respectively.

The researchers believe the findings on BMI and waist circumference are especially important, since fat that accumulates around the middle is especially hard on the health.

The investigators plan on following these women, and will be looking at weight gain in their children as well to see if probiotics given during pregnancy have any effect on the offspring.

"Bacteria are passed from mother to child through the birth canal, as well as through breast milk and research indicates that early nutrition may influence the risk of obesity later in life," study author Kirsi Laitinen was quoted as saying. "There is growing evidence that this approach might open a new angle on the fight against obesity, either through prevention or treatment."

SOURCE: Presented at the European Congress on Obesity, May 7, 2009