Prebiotics may prevent excessive teenage weight gain

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Mass Body mass index

A daily supplement of prebiotic inulin and oligofructose may help
adolescents maintain an appropriate body weight and BMI, according
to new research from the US.

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics​, reports that body weight increases naturally during puberty, but an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure can result in excessive weight gain and, eventually, obesity. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, led by Steven Abrams, recruited 97 healthy, non-obese adolescents (average age 11.6) and assigned them to receive daily supplements of either inulin/oligofructose (eight grams, BeneoSynergy1, Orafti) or a maltodextrin placebo (both via orange juice or milk) for one year. They report that the increment in BMI over the intervention year was much lower for the BeneoSynergy1 group compared to the control group. Body weight and body fat mass were also significantly lower in the BeneoSynergy1 group compared to the controls. The research adds to an ever-growing body of science on the health benefits of inulin and oligofructose, ranging from boosting bone health and reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, to potential benefits for the immune system, weight management, and intestinal health. "We found that supplementation with a prebiotic, in addition to its benefit to bone mineralization, had a significant benefit in the maintenance of an appropriate BMI increase during pubertal growth in primarily non-obese young adolescents,"​ wrote lead author Steven Abrams. The study, part of a larger intervention measuring bone health parameters as well, found that the adolescents receiving the prebiotic supplement had a smaller BMI increase compared with the placebo group, with an average BMI difference of 0.52 kg per sq. m. The total fat mass of the prebiotic-supplemented group was also significantly less than the placebo group, with the prebiotic-supplemented youngsters having, on average, 0.84 kg less total fat mass. When the researchers considered subjects whose higher calcium intakes (greater than 700 mg per day), they found that the associated benefits were increased, with an average BMI difference of 0.82 kg per sq. m, compared to the placebo group. The adolescents were followed for a further year after stopping the intervention, and Abrams and co-workers report that the differences were, in general, maintained between the groups. "BMI normally increases during puberty at a yearly rate of about 0.6 to 0.8 kg per sq. m. We found that the prebiotic group had an increase in BMI of about 0.7 kg per sq. m during the supplementation year, consistent with expected increases during puberty and that the control group had an increase of 1.2 kg per sq. m,"​ explained the authors. "Thus the overall greater increase in BMI during the year in the control group was likely not ideal."​ The researchers state that the mechanism behind the benefits has only received minimal study to date, with animal studies indicating that inulin and oligofructose may regulate appetitie by increasing gastrointestinal peptides that modulate satiety, such as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is reported to work by delaying the emptying of the stomach (gastric emptying) and thereby promoting the feeling of fullness. Additionally, three human studies have been performed to date with 33, 10 and 11 participants, respectively. All three studies reported effects of inulin and oligofructose on energy intake and the sensation of fullness. "Controlled trials evaluating other population groups, including those who are more overweight and combining these interventions with exercise and behavior modification should be conducted to evaluate the overall potential optimal strategy for decreasing the risk of excessive increase in BMI during early adolescence,"​ concluded Abrams. Commenting on the research Dr. Anne Franck, executive vice president of science and technology at Orafti, said: "We have known for a long time the benefits of Beneo oligofructose in enhancing satiety and reducing energy intake. This new research study highlights dramatically the benefits on body weight and composition that can be achieved by taking BeneoSynergy1 supplementation in puberty."​ Orafti's BeneoSynergy1 is a mixture of inulin (beta (2,1) linear fructans) and oligofructose (the partially hydrolysed product of inulin), a specially formulated oligofructose-enriched inulin from chicory. Source: Journal of Pediatrics​ September 2007, Volume 151, Pages 293-298 "Effect of Prebiotic Supplementation and Calcium Intake on Body Mass Index" ​Authors: S.A. Abrams, I.J. Griffin, K.M. Hawthorne, K.J. Ellis

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