Microbiome Bites March 6th: IBS and Prebiotics for Childhood Obesity

Prebiotics for childhood obesity

1. Intestinal Bacteria Affect Both Gut and Brain Function in IBS Patients

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints, yet little is known about its causes. The disorder affects approximately 11% of the population and occurs most frequently in women. Sufferers often experience severe abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Patients often also experience anxiety and depression.

Treatment options include medications and dietary changes. The main dietary changes focuses on eliminating FODMAPS, which are a class of carbohydrates that are not easily digested and can cause fermentation in the bowels. Prescribed medications typically include antispasmodics and laxatives. However, the effectiveness of these medications is limited, as the causes of IBS remain unknown.

A new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine may soon lead to new treatment options for IBS sufferers.

For the study, the researchers used healthy individuals (no IBS) and two groups of IBS patients: one group with anxiety and one group without. They transferred the microbiomes of these patients into germ-free mice using fecal transplants.

After the transplant the mice developed the same symptoms as the donors. The mice developed gastrointestinal transit dysfunction (changes in the time it takes for food to pass from the stomach and through the intestine), leaky gut, inflammation, and telltale anxiety behaviors. 

The authors believe their research opens the door for the development of novel prebiotic and probiotic treatments for IBS as well as the potential to improve diagnosis with new biomarkers.

The study also adds to the growing evidence that the gut microbiome can affect the brain and a range of neurological disorders such as autism and Parkinson’s disease.

 

2. Prebiotics to Help Childhood Obesity

Obesity amongst children is a significant and growing issue in the west. One third of children in the USA and Canada are overweight or obese. If not dealt with by adolescence, this can lead to life-long obesity. Many treatments involve restrictive diets, which can be effective for adults but not for children, as they reduce macronutrient intake, in-turn reducing the child’s energy and thus promote weight gain through binge eating.

Prebiotic supplements are an effective way to control appetite, stimulate satiety hormones (that make you feel full) and energy intake.  In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers tested the effectiveness of prebiotic supplementation in improving childhood obesity.

The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. It consisted of 38 participants assigned to two groups. 20 were in the prebiotic group – 10 boys and 10 girls, and 18 in the placebo group – 7 girls and 11 boys. The study tested for the effect of prebiotic supplementation on appetite and on BMI.

Over a 16-week period the study found a positive correlation between prebiotic supplements and weight control. The prebiotic group reported feeling “more full” after eating and had a reduced BMI score compared to the placebo group.

This study is relatively preliminary (the sample size was quite small) but is very promising as studies related to childhood obesity are currently lacking.