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Probiotics and Diabetes, a Possible Benefit Regarding Obesity

Probiotics, diabetes and obesity

For several years, researchers have been exploring the role of good bacteria--probiotics--and obesity, zeroing in on the relationship between the two. Now a new review highlights the potential for probiotics to be beneficial in a disease closely associated with obesity: diabetes.

Probiotics may be good for diabetes

The human intestinal tract harbors an incredible number (estimated 10 to the 14th power) of microorganisms, collectively referred to as colonic flora or gut microbiota, and composed of both "good" and "bad" (disease-causing) bacteria. Research has suggested that the colonic flora have an impact on how the body acquires nutrients and regulates energy, and that obese and lean individuals harbor some differences in their gut microbiota.

In fact, the authors of the new review note that "Although clearly no substitute for proper diet and exercise, manipulation of the gut microbiota may represent a novel approach for treating obesity, one that has few adverse effects." For individuals who have diabetes, the possibility of using probiotics to help with weight is an appealing possibility.

These findings further suggest that gut microbiota has a role in the development of obesity and by extension, has an effect on diabetes. For example, a 2009 report in Current Pharmaceutical Design noted that "data obtained in experimental models and human subjects are in favour of the fact that changing the gut microbiota (with prebiotics and/or probiotics) may participate in the control of the development of metabolic diseases associated with obesity," of which diabetes is one.

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Prebiotics are non-digestible food products that "beneficially affect[s] the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon," according to the scientists, Gibson and Roberfroid, who introduced the term in 1995. Basically, prebiotics can nourish probiotics.

Let's return to the topic of probiotics, obesity, and diabetes. Here are a few of the studies that have looked at this relationship.

  • In a 2010 multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention trial, 87 individuals with high body mass index were randomly assigned to take the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri SBT 2055 in yogurt already fermented with two other probiotics, or yogurt without L. gasseri. The researchers found that subjects who consumed the yogurt with L. gasseri had significantly reduced abdominal fat, body weight, and other factors that indicated the benefits of L. gasseri on metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
  • In an animal study, supplementation with the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve strain B-3 in obese mice fed a high-fat diet suppressed the accumulation of body weight and fat.
  • In another animal study, the probiotic L. gasseri BNR17 prevented an increase in body weight and fat in overweight rats.
  • A December 2011 review in Acta Diabetologica noted that "the last 5 years have demonstrated that intestinal microbiotica, at its molecular level, is a causal factor early in the development of the diseases [referring to metabolic disorders such as diabetes]."

Probiotics have been credited with benefiting individuals who are experiencing a variety of health problems, ranging from diarrhea to celiac disease. There is also research suggesting probiotics may help reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Could probiotics, found in yogurt, selected other foods, and supplements, also have a role in helping people who have diabetes? Thus far, research suggests probiotics may have a beneficial effect in individuals with diabetes who need help with obesity and weight control.

Burcelin R et al. Gut microbiota and diabetes: from pathogenesis to therapeutic perspective. Acta Diabetology 2011 De; 48(4): 257-73
Cani PD, Delzenne NM. The role of the gut microbiota in energy metabolism and metabolic disease. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2009; 15(13): 1546-58
Gibson GR, Roberfroid MB. Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics. Journal of Nutrition 1995 Jun; 125(6): 1401-12
Kadooka Y et al. Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010; 64:636-43
Kang JH et al. Effects of Lacobacillus gasseri BNR17 on body weight and adipose tissue mass in diet-induced overweight rats. Journal of Microbiology 2010; 48:712-14
Kondo S et al. Antiobesity effects of Bifidobacterium breve strain B-3 supplementation in a mouse model with high-fat diet-induced obesity. Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry 2010; 74:1656-61
Mallappa RH et al. Management of metabolic syndrome through probiotic and prebiotic interventions. Indian Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism 2012 Jan-Feb; 161(1): 20-27
Marik PE. Colonic flora, probiotics, obesity and diabetes. Frontiers in Endocrinology (Lausanne) 2012; 3:87

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