Obesity, Probiotics and Pregnancy

There are numerous reasons to lose weight but scientists continue to explore complex connections between weight and health risks. A new study in the journal FASEB using rats as a model found that those mothers overweight during pregnancy passed on cellular programming in utero that made their off spring predisposed to inflammation related diseases including Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Stroke, Heart Disease and others from the day they are born. Even more depressing was the discovery that it made no difference if the off spring maintained normal weight during their life.

To determine this link the scientists gave rats one of three diets; (low-fat, high-saturated fat, and high-trans fat) four weeks prior to mating and throughout pregnancy and lactation. The high-fat diets rendered the mice clinically obese. The science team analysed the brains of the newborn pups after challenge by inflammatory stimuli.

Offspring born to mothers on the high-fat diets showed increased immune cell activation and release of injurious products (cytokines). This overshoot was already apparent on the day after birth. When the scientists continued to analyse the pup brains through their juvenile and adult years, and even after the rats were put on healthy low-fat diets, this hyper-response to inflammation remained dramatically increased compared to rats born to normal-weight mothers.[1]

This means that mothers who carry enough weight during pregnancy may be programming their children to have adverse inflammation related health risks, providing a potential generational transfer of lifelong obesity related illness regardless of the weight of the child.

The use of probiotics during pregnancy seem to be able to confer some future weight related advantage to the baby including the reduction of the inflammation related disease Diabetes II and obesity.

An article in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the use of probiotic supplements reduced gestational diabetes by 20% and also reduced the frequency of overweight babies being born. It appears that by transferring benefits to the ecology of the mothers gastrointestinal tract health benefits were then transferred to the baby, suggesting that at least some of the frequent lifestyle diseases in the west may be restrained by good nutrition and probiotics.[2]

265 women were selected during the first trimester and split to controls and women who received intense nutritional counselling. This second group was then split so that so they received either the probiotic LGG (Lactobacillus rhamnosus) and Bifidobacterium lactis or a placebo.

At the end of 24 months of study, the researchers noted that the frequency of gestational diabetes was reduced in the probiotic group (13 per cent), compared to the diet-placebo group (36 per cent) and the control group (34 per cent). In the few women affected by gestational diabetes, the dietary intervention was found to independently diminish the risk of larger birth size in the infants.

In addition, no adverse events were reported, and no effect on the duration of pregnancies were recorded.

This study adds weight to the evolving view that microbiota manipulation whilst pregnant may reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome in the offspring. The consumption of suitable strain specific bacteria has no risk and considerable benefit.


[1] Bilbo SD, Tsang V. Enduring consequences of maternal obesity for brain inflammation and behavior of

offspring. FASEB J. 2010 Feb 2. View Abstract

[2] Luoto R, Laitinen K, Nermes M, Isolauri E. Impact of maternal probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling on pregnancy outcome and prenatal and postnatal growth: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2010 Feb 4:1-8 View Abstract

Related articles:

  1. Microbes in Mum – Act as Inhibitors of Allergy in Children
  2. A Novel Approach to Treating Depression – How Probiotics Can Shift Mood by Modulating Cytokines
  3. Science Connects Diet And Intestinal Bacteria With Healthier Immune Systems
  4. DHA & Vit D in Pregnancy, A Key Role for Both
  5. All Immunity is Mucosal – The GUT is No 1

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