Probiotics may aid weight loss in post-pregnancy women

May 20, 2009

A study presented at the 17th European Congress on Obesity and conducted by researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, shows that probiotic supplements taken by pregnant women may help prevent obesity following childbirth. Previous studies have investigated probiotics’ potential to aid in the prevention of intestinal diseases and more recent studies examined whether bacterial imbalances might lead to obesity. In this study, 256 women in their first trimester of pregnancy were randomly divided into three groups. The first group received dietary counseling consistent with recommendations for healthy weight gain and fetal development and was given daily capsules of probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The second group received the same counseling and placebo capsules, and a third group received placebo capsules and no counseling. The capsules were given until the women stopped exclusive breast feeding up to a maximum of six months after childbirth. The women were weighed at the start and the end of the study and additionally had their waste circumference and skin fold thickness measured at the end of the study, a year after childbirth.

The researchers found that 25% of the women in the probiotics group were classed as having central obesity. This is defined as a BMI of 30 or more or a waste circumference of over 80 cm. This compared with 43% of women in the counseling-only group and 40% in the third group who received neither probiotics nor counseling. The researchers also found that the average body fat percentage in the probiotics group was 28% compared to 29% and 30% in the counseling-only and third group, respectively. One year after childbirth, the women who received the probiotics had the lowest levels of central obesity as well as the lowest body fat percentage. However, the researchers noted that additional research would be needed to confirm the role of probiotics in prevention of obesity.

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