Study: Taking probiotics during pregnancy may reduce obesity risk after birth

5/8/2009

LONDON One year after giving birth, women are less likely to have the most dangerous kind of obesity if they had been given probiotics from the first trimester of pregnancy, according to new research released Thursday by the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

“The results of our study, the first to demonstrate the impact of probiotics-supplemented dietary counselling on adiposity, were encouraging,” stated Kirsi Laitinen, a nutritionist and senior lecturer at the University of Turku in Finland, who presented her findings May 7 at the European Congress on Obesity. “The women who got the probiotics fared best. One year after childbirth, they had the lowest levels of central obesity as well as the lowest body fat percentage.

“Central obesity, where overall obesity is combined with a particularly fat belly, is considered especially unhealthy,” Laitinen said. “We found it in 25% of the women who had received the probiotics along with dietary counseling, compared with 43% in the women who received diet advice alone.”

Laitinen said further research is needed to confirm the potential role of probiotics in fighting obesity. One of the limitations of the study was that it did not control for the mothers’ weight before pregnancy, which may influence how fat they later become.

“The advantage of studying pregnant women to investigate the potential link between probiotics and obesity is that it allows us to see the effects not only in the women, but also in their children,” she said. “Particularly during pregnancy, the impacts of obesity can be immense, with the effects seen both in the mother and the child. 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. There is growing evidence that this approach might open a new angle on the fight against obesity, either through prevention or treatment.”

Latinen’s study was funded by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Academy of Finland and the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, a Finnish medical research charity.

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