Can Probiotics Help Control Your Weight?

Probiotics are the new darlings of the natural health set. Adding to claims that the healthy probiotics found in yogurt and other foods can prevent intestinal distress and lower blood pressure, researchers at Vanderbilt University have released the results of a promising new study that shows probiotics may help you stay slim.

In a research study, the results of which were published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Vanderbilt research team, led by senior investigator Sean Davies, PhD, claims that probiotics could be the answer to preventing obesity and improving insulin resistance. In the study, the researchers genetically altered a safe bacteria, Escherichia coli Nissle 1917, to produce the compound called N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine, or NAPE. The altered probiotics were then added to the drinking water of mice, which were also fed a high fat diet. The mice that received NAPE showed significant reductions in food intake and body fat over control mice which did not receive the compound.

The test mice remained less obese than the control mice, even 12 weeks after the study. Davies told Medical News Today that the probiotics remained in the guts of the mice for up to six weeks after it was administered. He also noted that, although there was no proof that probiotics would show the same results in people, he is hoping to gain FDA approval to test the effects of the genetically altered probiotics on humans. “Since it worked in mice eating a high-fat diet, it does suggest that it will be beneficial, even if people don’t change their diet to something including more vegetables and less junk food. But we expect that it would likely provide the most benefit to those who do change their diet and try to get sufficient exercise,” Davies said.

Davies pointed out that testing the compound made from probiotics in humans will likely be a bit the future, though. Before the researchers can get FDA approval to do clinical trials, there are regulatory issues that need to be resolved. Although the probiotics used in the study are considered safe in humans, the senior investigator noted, ” We will need to engineer in some additional safety measures before approval for such trials is likely. As exciting as our results are, we need to absolutely make sure we can control these bacteria and make sure they don’t have any potential to cause harm.”

Davies made it clear that the findings did not suggest a miracle cure for obesity, since weight gain can reoccur once the probiotics leave the gut. It is not the eat-all-you-want-and-stay-slim diet. But the genetically altered probiotics, taken in conjunction with a reasonably healthy diet, do show potential for treating obesity and obesity-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

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