Probiotics in Pregnancy Could Protect Against Childhood Obesity

Probiotics and Childhood ObesityAccording to researchers taking probiotics during pregnancy and breast feeding may modify genes related to obesity in both the mother and their infants.

15 pregnant women participated in this double-blinded randomized controlled (RCT) pilot study.  7 of the women were randomly chosen to supplement with a Probiotic which contained 10 Billion of each Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifiobacterium lactis strains of friendly bacteria.  The remaining 8 participants were given a placebo.  The dosing began on the participants first study visit which occurred while they were pregnant and lasted until the end of an exclusive breast feeding period with a maximum study period of 6 months.  Blood samples were taken from the mother’s prior to the commencement of supplementation with the Probiotic and between 6-12 months after the birth of their children.  Researchers reviewed the DNA methylation status of 623 obesity related and 433 weight gain related gene promoters, using the Ingenuity Pathway tool, in each blood sample taken.

Researchers found the levels of DNA methylation in some genes known to carry an increased risk for obesity, including the FTO gene the single most influential gene, were decreased in the group taking the Probiotic supplement.  The FTO gene has been associated with type II diabetes, obesity risk and body mass index.  Suggesting that Probiotic supplementation during pregnancy may have more applications beyond obesity, researchers found Probiotics had effects on the DNA methylation levels of genes involved with immunological and metabolic processes.  Further studies are needed.



Study Finds Probiotics May Improve Cognition in Alzheimer’s Patients

Probiotics and Cognition in Alzheimer'sAccording to a new study, probiotics may improve cognitive function in humans.  This is the first time research has shown supplementation of probiotics, friendly bacteria, may aid individuals with Alzheimer’s.

52 women and men between the ages of 60 and 95 with Alzheimer’s Disease participated in this randomized, double blind, controlled clinical trial.  The study lasted twelve weeks.  Half the patients were given milk enhanced with four strains of friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum and Bifidobacterium Bifidum) the other half of the participants received only milk.  Blood samples for biochemical analysis were taken at the beginning and at the end of the study period.  Additionally cognitive function tests with MMSE (Mini-Mental State Examination, a standard measure of cognitive impairment) questions were also given; this includes tasks like repeating a phrase, copying a picture, counting backwards from 100 by sevens and giving the current date.

Significant increases (from 8.7 to 10.6 out of a maximum of 30) on the average score on the MMSE questionnaire were seen over the 12 week study period in the group receiving the probiotics.  The control group did not see the same results (from 8.5 to 8.0 out of a maximum of 30).  The participants remained severely cognitively impaired even after the study ended, however the researchers believe the results seen in this study are important because they are the first to show probiotics can improve human cognition.  Prior studies showed probiotics could improve memory as well as impaired spatial learning in diabetic rats.

Probiotics are known for their benefits of provinding protection against irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, eczema, allergies, tooth decay and infectious diarrheas.  Scientists have believed for a long time that probiotics might improve cognition due to the continuous communication between the brain through the nervous system, immune system and hormones and between the intestinal microflora and the gastrointestinal tract (“microbiota-gut-brain axis”).

Further research is needed to determine if the benefits of probiotics grow stronger over a longer period of time.



Study Finds Link Between Gut Microbiota, Sleep Quality and Cognitive Flexibility

Sleep and ProbioticsAccording to a new study, poor sleep quality was linked with composition of the gut microbiome and cognitive flexibility in healthy older adults.  Low amounts of bacteria in the phyla Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae, were associated with poor sleep quality as well as performance on specific cognitive tests.

Stool samples were provided by study participants.  Data on sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index were also given by participants.  Cognitive flexibility was assessed through the completion of tests like the Stroop Color Word Test.  Results showed that when participants experienced better sleep both higher proportions of Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae were present and improvements were seen in better cognitive flexibility.

The bidirectional interaction between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract which is called the gut-brain axis has been increasingly gaining attention from both consumers as well as scientists.  Research links the microflora found in the digestive system to many markers of health including reduced anxiety levels, depression and overall general mood.  Scientific evidence shows partial sleep deprivation may change the gut microbiota.  Also seen in scientific literature is dysbiosis, a microbial imbalance, caused by shift work and jet lag which may actually promote glucose intolerance and obesity.

A 2014 survey by Datamonitor Consumer ranked insomnia as the fourth most relevant health issue experienced by Americans by percentage after stress, tiredness and fatigue, and allergies.  Middle aged women were the most worried about insomnia.



Probiotics Backed for Weight Loss Benefits

Weight Loss and ProbioticsA new meta analysis and review shows Probiotic supplementation containing various strains of Lactobacillus have been shown to cause a small but statistically significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.

15 studies of Probiotic supplementation studies were reviewed.  Larger reductions in body weight, BMI (body mass index) and fat percentages were seen in the supplementation group when compared to the participants receiving a placebo.  Even short term supplementation with probiotics (Less than 12 weeks) show small reductions in fat percentage, BMI and body weight.

The studies included in the review lasted between 3 and 12 weeks.  All the studies but three used Lactobacillus.  More than one of the studies reviewed were not registered and were considered a higher risk of bias.

Other reviews done in the past have found similar conclusions on BMI and body weight reductions; however in some of those studies reviewed participants also received Prebiotics in addition to Probiotics.

Further long term studies are needed to examine the effects Probiotic supplements may have on different measures of body weight.


Nestle`-Backed Study Links Probiotic Strain and Depression

gut health probioticsA new study backed by Nestle` shows a specific strain of a probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum, helped relieve symptoms of depression as well as alleviating gastrointestinal upsets.

Over 40 adults who had experienced Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in addition to mild to moderate amounts of depression or anxiety participated in this study.   Half the group took a dose of Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) daily and the other half of the group took a placebo.  After six weeks researchers found 64% of the patients taking the probiotic experienced reductions in depression scores when compared to 32% of the participants taking the placebo.  Additionally functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), showed depression score improvements were associated with changes in multiple areas in the brain involved with mood control.  No changes were seen in anxiety scores however improvements in quality of life were seen in the group supplementing with the probiotic.

Although the results of this study are promising, larger scale trials are needed.



Digestive Health Digest

Digestive HealthIn the past, when discussing digestive health, products targeting the prevention of gas and bloating, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation were in the forefront.  Specific conditions usually addressed were Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Colon Cancer prevention and general support for healthy elimination.  Products like Fiber and Oat Bran were touted as providing cardiovascular support as well as reducing the risks of colon cancer and promoting increased regular elimination.  Today people are beginning to understand that there is a connection between overall wellness and digestive health. They are taking a more proactive role in searching for products that support this health connection without looking to necessarily treat a specific condition.

Probiotics have taken the center stage as more studies show the connection between digestive health and overall wellness.  Ensuring that the Probiotics available contain the correct strains and a proper transport system are keys to realizing the benefits Probiotics are able to provide.  Up and coming interest in digestive health support supplements are in the areas of Prebiotics and Digestive Enzymes.

Prebiotics help the body produce its own friendly bacteria while Probiotics involve introducing foreign strains of friendly bacteria into the digestive tract.  Prebiotics basically insure success of the Probiotic strains in the gut.  They are synergistic in that taken together they provide the maximum benefits available for digestive health.

While not as well known as Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes are also critical for optimal digestive health.  As we age our body natural slows down its production of Digestive Enzymes.  Additionally stressful situations as well as over processing of our food sources may cause a lack of Digestive Enzyme production in our intestinal system.  Without adequate Digestive Enzymes feelings of bloating and increased gas production may be experienced.  A reduction in nutrient absorption also occurs which may lead to a reduction in overall immunity and health as well as digestive disturbances.

According to the National Digestive Disease Clearinghouse approximately 60 to 70 million people are affected by digestive conditions every year.  Taking a proactive role to supporting healthier digestive health seems to be a step in the right direction.


Could Probiotic Ease Depression? Mouse study suggests so…..

According to a new animal study using mice, Lactobacillus, a probiotic, could reverse symptoms of depression.  A combination of molecular and computational techniques as well as behavioral techniques were used to test the role these gut microbioata may play in behaviors associated with depression, since these disorders may run in families and the microbiome may be a causative agent or a factor of this disease.

Researchers using a mouse model looked for a biological process, which occurs in living organisms, which may influence mood.  Results of this study found a reduction in levels of Lactobacillus in mice under stress as well as increased levels of circulating Kynurenine levels, which is a form of inflammation that has been linked to depression and suicide risks.

By restoring intestinal Lactobacillus levels improvements in abnormalities in behavior were seen.  Researchers did stress however that the symptoms that they identified in the mice are “depressive-like” behaviors.  It is hard to determine if the mice are actually experiencing depression since mice have no way of communicating their feelings.  Researchers do feel confident that the findings from this study may open new opportunities in the treatment of depression and other conditions like anxiety.

The researchers plan to begin studying the effects of Lactobacillus in people with depression in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), because MS sufferers often experience depression.