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Prebiotics can battle obesity (by influencing genetic behaviour): Researchers

By Shane Starling , 30-Jan-2013
Last updated on 30-Jan-2013 at 13:08 GMT

Is that a prebiotic sandwich sir?
Is that a prebiotic sandwich sir?

Prebiotic fibres like oligosaccharides can help ease gut ‘dysbiosis’ common among the obese and overweight, say Belgian researchers.

A review of animal and human observation data published in the British Journal of Nutrition found the prebiotics could modulate gene expression and metabolism that influences the gut microbiota.

The gut microbiota often enters a disturbed state (dysbiosis) among obese and overweight people, as well as those suffering symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

“Even if most of the function of the microbial genes remains unknown until now, and if we are conditioned at birth with a ‘personal’ profile of gut microbes, several recent papers and reviews support the idea that ‘dysbiosis’ (inadequate change of gut microbiota composition and/or activity related to host disease) characterises obese or overweight individuals,” the researchers from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium said.

The review builds on recent work that identified three basic enterotypes that define typical gut microbiomes and investigations about how readily these ‘types’ can be influenced by diet.

“Those data suggest that the gut microbiota composition/activity associated with nutritional imbalance might contribute to obesity and related disorders. If dysbiosis exists, is there a means to favourably change the microbial environment, and thereby to improve host health?” they asked.

Obesity benefits

Led by Nathalie M. Delzenne from the Louvain Drug Research Institute’s Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group at the university, they concluded prebiotics had a role to play: “Highly fermentable carbohydrates, such as prebiotics, are able to counteract several metabolic alterations linked to obesity, including hyperglycaemia, inflammation and hepatic steatosis, at least in animal models.”

The data, published as part of pre- and probiotic BJN special supplement that included several studies, suggested the prebiotic-provoked microbiota change went beyond changes in Bifidobacteria, the study’s initial point of focus.

They added: “The promotion of gut hormones' release, changes in the gut barrier integrity and/or the release of bacterial-derived metabolites could all participate in the improvement of host health in the particular context of overfeeding and obesity.”

“Appropriate human intervention studies with ‘colonic’ nutrients (dietary fibres, prebiotics and others) able to selectively promote beneficial bacteria, or with food containing colonic nutrients, are essential to confirm the relevance of those nutrients in the nutritional management of overweight and obesity.”

They said such ingredients could be found in whole grain cereals that, “ could be helpful in prevention of chronic diseases”.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Volume 109 / Supplement S2 / January 2013, pp S81-S85

Gut microbiota and metabolic disorders: how prebiotic can work?’

Authors:Nathalie M. Delzenne, Audrey M. Neyrinck, Patrice D. Cani

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