Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Probiotics and a healthy diet can help children fight obesity, finds study

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among American children and adolescents aged between 2 and 19 years stood at 18.5%


                            Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Probiotics and a healthy diet can help children fight obesity, finds study
(Getty Images)

A healthy diet and probiotics may help children and adolescents with obesity shed some extra kilos, according to a new study. This strategy, according to scientists involved in the study, is likely to help manage childhood obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among American children and adolescents aged between 2 and 19 years stood at 18.5%. Studies suggest excess body fat might lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. It may increase the odds of insulin resistance, which results in high blood sugar levels.

The National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is observed in the month of September. Previous studies have suggested that certain probiotic strains may help with weight loss by restoring the composition of the gut microbiome. What is more, these microbes may boost digestive health, heart health, and immune function. A group of bacteria present in the gut called Bifidobacteria may help prevent infections from other microbes like E.coli. People with low levels of Bifidobacteria tend to suffer from impaired digestion, leading to body weight gain and obesity, researchers explained.

"Probiotic supplements are frequently given to people without proper evidence data," Dr Flavia Prodam from the University of Piemonte Orientale said, adding that probiotics contain different bacterial strains. But Prodam and her colleagues wanted to investigate whether Bifidobacteria, along with a strict diet, can help manage obesity.

Bifidobacterium is naturally present in the human gut (Getty Images)

The team enrolled 100 children and adolescents suffering from obesity and insulin resistance. The participants, aged between 6-18 years, had to follow a calorie-controlled diet. They were given either probiotic, Bifidobacterium breve BR03 and Bifidobacterium breve B632, or a placebo for eight weeks.

All participants in the study showed reduced Body Mass Index, waist circumference, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and levels of E coli bacteria. But the group on probiotic supplements fared better. 

"The next step for our research is to identify patients that could benefit from this probiotic treatment, with a view to creating a more personalized weight-loss strategy," Dr Prodam explained. "We also want to decipher more clearly the role of diet and probiotics on microbiome composition. This could help us to understand how the microbiota is different in young people with obesity," she added.

The benefits from probiotics continued even after children stopped taking probiotics. Dr. Christopher Moran, a pediatric gastroenterologist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, found this unusual, "Many studies show that when you stop taking the probiotic, it vanishes in the intestines and doesn't have long-lasting (effects)," Moran, who is not involved in the study, told CNN.

Another expert said that parents should speak with their doctors before administering probiotics to their children. "Although probiotics are generally regarded as safe for most people, the majority of probiotic trials have not reported safety data as rigorously as these data are reported in pharmaceutical trials," Dr Geoffrey Preidis, a pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, told CNN.

The study was presented at the e-ECE 2020.

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.