Prebiotic Supplement Improves the Gut Microbiome and Reduces Body Fat in Overweight Children
Childhood obesity has become a global epidemic, particularly among industrialized nations like the U.S. According to the CDC, one in five school-aged children (ages 6-19) in the U.S. are obese.
Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults and have much greater risk for obesity-related morbidity and mortality (metabolic disease, diabetes etc.).
In recent years, scientists have uncovered the fundamental role that the gut microbiome (intestinal bacteria) plays in maintaining health and the onset of various diseases.
Now a team of researchers from the University of Calgary has published research showing that taking a prebiotic fiber supplement not only improves the gut microbiome, but also helps children maintain a healthier weight – potentially helping to prevent many of the diseases caused by obesity.
How was the study designed and what was measured?
The study was a single-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled, trial of 2 separate groups. Participants included children, 7 – 12 years old, who were overweight or obese (>85th percentile of body mass index) but otherwise healthy.
Participants were randomly assigned to groups given either oligofructose-enriched inulin (8 g/day; n=22) or maltodextrin placebo (isocaloric dose, controls; n=20) once daily for 16 weeks.
Height, weight, and waist circumference were measured at baseline and every 4 weeks.
Blood samples were collected at baseline and 16 weeks, and analyzed for lipids, cytokines, lipopolysaccharide, and insulin.
Gut microbiome samples were collected at baseline and 16 weeks; bile acids were profiled using high-performance liquid chromatography and the composition of the microbiota was analyzed by 16S rRNA sequencing and quantitative PCR.
The primary outcome was change in percent body fat from baseline to 16 weeks.
Remarkably, after four months taking the supplement, the children had a decrease in body fat and fat around their abdomen (a known risk factor for diabetes and heart disease). The fiber also decreased markers of inflammation and triglyceride levels.
Additionally, the prebiotic significantly increased Bifidobacteria (good bacteria) and decreased Bacteroides vulgatis (not so good bacteria) in the children’s gut microbiomes.
The authors suggest that prebiotics are inexpensive and non-invasive and represent a plausible intervention for overweight and obese children.
The findings from this study pave the way for a larger clinical trial and show the potential for improving health by changing intestinal bacteria through diet.
Nicolucci AC, Hume MP, Martínez I, Mayengbam S, Walter J, Reimer RA, Prebiotic Reduces Body Fat and Alters Intestinal Microbiota in Children With Overweight or Obesity, Gastroenterology (2017), doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.055.