March 06, 2017
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affecting more than 36 percent of adults. Now there is evidence suggesting that probiotics may be effective for weight management and the problems associated with obesity.
Scientists have shown that bacteria in the gut can have anti-obesity effects and can suppress fat in the liver. Researchers fed lab mice a high fat diet then administered four strains of intestinal bacteria to four different groups of mice.
The scientists found that the mice that consumed Lactobacillus acidophilus had less fat in their livers and better liver enzymes. Consuming a probiotic significantly suppressed mouse weight gain without changing how much food the mice ate. The probiotic also lowered cholesterol in the subjects’ livers.
The human gut contains a large community of microorganisms, known as the microbiota, consisting of 500 to 1,000 species. Collectively, there are about 100 times more bacterial genes than human genes in the human body. Microbes in the gut may control the storage and use of fat in times of famine.
A protein, known as fasting induced adipose factor (Fiaf), tells the body to burn fat instead of calories during times of starvation. Gut bacteria control the production of Fiaf – suppressing Fiaf tells the body to store fat and increasing Fiaf promotes leanness.
Diet influences the number and type of microbes living in the gut, so diet has an effect on Fiaf production and fat storage. The typical Western diet tends to suppress the number and types of bacteria that increase Fiaf leading to a propensity toward obesity.
The percentage of kids with obesity has tripled since the 1970s, according to the CDC. Much of the research on the positive effects of probiotics on obesity focus on adults, but since childhood obesity is on the rise; new research suggests probiotics may help children with obesity.
Studies have shown differences in gut microbiota during the first year of life were associated with obesity later in childhood. Starting before birth may help too. Researchers that had expectant mothers take probiotics or placebos four weeks before their expected delivery date found that prenatal probiotics helped children avoid excessive weight gain in the first two years of life.
Probiotics may help with some aspects of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that includes high blood sugar, excess body fat at the waist, high cholesterol or triglycerides, and increased blood pressure. The results of one trial suggest taking probiotics might improve blood sugar levels. Researchers found probiotics helped preserve insulin sensitivity, a phenomenon that allows the body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream to lower blood sugar levels. Other research shows probiotics can improve blood sugar control in women during pregnancy and postpartum.
Researchers wanted to learn if gastrointestinal bacteria could contribute to obesity, so they enrolled four twins into a study. The twins were atypical, with one twin lean and the other obese. The scientists transplanted gut bacteria from the subjects into sterile mice. The mice that received gut microbiota from the lean twin stayed at the same weight while the mice that received bacteria from the obese twin gained weight quickly.
More investigation shows that eating a nutritious diet can correct gut microbes. An overweight woman kept a food diary for several days before researchers measured the bacteria in her gut. The scientists measured the gut microbes again after a dietary intervention and found that the number of healthy microbes increased.
The potential effects of intestinal microbes on obesity and health are catching the interest of scientists and consumers alike. Consumers are highly interested in losing weight and may benefit greatly by the use of probiotic supplements that introduce bacteria with anti-obesity characteristics into the digestive tract.
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