Could yoghurt be the key to tackling childhood obesity?

Monday, 23 September, 2019

Could yoghurt be the key to tackling childhood obesity?

Research presented at the 58th Annual European Society for Endocrinology Meeting reveals that probiotic supplements may enhance weight loss and improve the metabolic health of obese children following a diet and exercise plan. The findings suggest that probiotic supplements may help obese children lose body weight and reduce risk of contracting future metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Obesity in childhood and adolescence is a growing worldwide health problem, which can lead to the development of serious and debilitating complications. Probiotics are live microorganisms believed to have health benefits through improving or restoring the diversity of gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome. While studies have drawn parallels between probiotic consumption and weight loss in adults, its effectiveness has not been fully investigated in obese children.

Professor Rui-Min Chen and colleagues at Fuzhou Children’s Hospital in Fujian, China conducted a randomised, double-blind trial of probiotic effects on the health of obese children, aged 6–14 years old. All 54 participants in the study followed a reduced-calorie diet and exercise regime over the course of 12 weeks. The participants’ body weight and markers of metabolic health (blood lipid levels, blood glucose levels, insulin levels and inflammatory markers) were measured before and after the study, revealing that children treated with probiotic supplements lost more weight and had lower levels of markers that indicate poor metabolic health.

“Our findings suggest that probiotic supplementation may help with weight loss and improve metabolic health in obese children, and that this may be an effective strategy for the prevention and treatment of obesity in the future,” said Prof Chen.

More work is needed to confirm Prof Chen’s findings, as the research was confined to the Fujian area. “Other studies have also reported no benefits from probiotic treatment in obese children, but these were much shorter in duration. So further investigation is needed before any medical recommendations can be made,” said Prof Chen.

Researchers will conduct larger trials examining the effect of probiotics on the metabolic health of obese children, analysing how probiotics alter the gut. These studies aim to develop a better understanding of the connection between gut bacteria and obesity risk. Childhood obesity is a growing problem that requires early intervention to prevent long-term health problems. Microbiome-based treatments could offer a more effective strategy for tackling this epidemic.

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