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Fonterra probiotic shows potential to prevent diabetes in pregnancy

Post a commentBy Will Chu , 06-Apr-2017
Last updated on 06-Apr-2017 at 13:46 GMT2017-04-06T13:46:27Z

Lifestyle factors such as changes in patterns of food consumption with economic development have led to the well-recognised and increasing problems of obesity and associated diseases, including gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). ©iStock/Antonio Gravante
Lifestyle factors such as changes in patterns of food consumption with economic development have led to the well-recognised and increasing problems of obesity and associated diseases, including gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). ©iStock/Antonio Gravante

Dairy giant Fonterra’s naturally occurring probiotic could be responsible for a 68% reduction in gestational diabetes in pregnant women, according to researchers.

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that gestational diabetes (GDM) was significantly lower in the supplemented group when compared to the placebo group.

Specifically, supplementation with the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, from 14 to 16 weeks’ gestation, could lower gestational diabetes, particularly among older women and those with previous GDM.

“Instances of gestational diabetes are on the rise throughout the world so it’s exciting to find out Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, may be able to change this,” said Dr James Dekker, programme manager of Nutrition and Health at Fonterra.

“We know that not all probiotics are created equal, and through targeted research we’re finding out how our Fonterra probiotic strains can be used to help people have a better quality of life,” he added.

The use of probiotic strains for pregnant and lactating women is considered a promising strategy to promote a healthy pregnancy via modulation of the gut microbiota and intestinal permeability.

Probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium Longum or Lactobacillus paracasei and Bifidobacterium Longum have been looked at by a number of companies interested in their positive effects on pregnant women such as minimising excessive fat storage.

In March of last year, Nestlé filed an international patent for the combination of myo-inositol and probiotic strains for pregnant and lactating women.

The action marked the second pregnancy probiotic filing from the company within a year following a 2015 patent for a probiotic product that was claimed could reduce allergy risks in children if taken during pregnancy and lactation.

Probiotic fermented milk, such as such as Yakult Light, have also proved useful in preventing insulin resistance.

Trial details

For the trial the probiotic HN001 was administered in capsule form to 189 pregnant women, while 194 received a placebo. All subjects were at 14–16 weeks’ gestation.

GDM at 24–30 weeks was then assessed in addition to maternal weight (kg) and waist circumference (cm), gestation (in weeks) and prematurity (less than 37 weeks).

The team from New Zealand highlighted a trend towards lower relative rates of GDM in the HN001 group.

“HN001 was associated with lower rates of GDM in women aged below 35 years and women with a history of GDM,” the study reported.

GDM prevalence was significantly lower in the HN001 group (2·1% v. 6·5%) when compared to the placebo group.

“HN001 supplementation from 14 to 16 weeks’ gestation may reduce GDM prevalence, particularly among older women and those with previous GDM,” the researchers concluded.

Finnish findings

The modulating effect of probiotics on gut microbiota and inflammatory responses has long been known.©iStock

The modulating effect of probiotics on gut microbiota and inflammatory responses has long been known.

A recent meta-analysis suggested that probiotics can favourably influence glucose metabolism whilst a Finnish trial showed that a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12, taken from the first trimester of pregnancy, reduced the prevalence of GDM.

The team speculated that HN001 supplementation altered the composition and function of the gut microbiota in favour of improved insulin sensitivity and inflammation in the host, which reduced the propensity towards GDM.

Additional evidence from the Finnish trial, points towards probiotic consumption altering the way dietary polysaccharides are fermented and gut barrier function is improved and inflammatory pathways are better regulated.

It is possible that the protection against GDM afforded by probiotics may have been facilitated by immunomodulatory pathways and energy harvest.

Microbes and fatty acids have been shown to exploit the same pathways in the immune system, which plays a role in regulating glucose metabolism and insulin resistance.

“If our results for probiotics are confirmed in other larger trials, the promise of a simple, cheap and safe intervention is an attractive option to reduce the prevalence of GDM,” said lead study author Dr Julian Crane, professor at Otago University.

“This is increasing not only in affluent countries but also in less-affluent countries as they become more Westernised.”

This study was funded by grants and supported by Fonterra.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1017/S0007114517000289
“Early pregnancy probiotic supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 may reduce the prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus: a randomised controlled trial.”
Authors: Julian Crane et al

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