The development of high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, is known to boost a woman’s risk of subsequently developing type-2 diabetes, as well as putting the offspring at increased risk of childhood obesity and diabetes as they get older.
Finnish researchers are now reporting that probiotic supplements may reduce the frequency of gestational diabetes by 20 per cent, according to data published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In addition to the benefits to mother, the study’s findings may also have benefits for the baby, with fewer births of larger babies, report researchers from the University of Turku.
“Taken together, long-term health benefits for mothers and children may be conferred by balanced maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation and by promoting the healthy gut microbiota in the mother and the child,” wrote the researchers, led by Raakel Luoto.
“The results of the present study add weight to the argument that the continuing burden of Western lifestyle diseases is modifiable. Based on the present findings, perinatal dietary counselling combined with probiotics could provide a safe and cost-effective tool in addressing the obesity epidemic,” they added.
Luoto and her co-workers recruited 256 women during their first trimester of pregnancy and randomly assigned to a control group, or an group that received intensive dietary counselling provided by a nutritionist. The women in the dietary coounselling group were further randomised to receive supplements containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG, Valio) and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 (Chr Hansen) or placebo.
“The present paper is the first to report the safety aspect of the probiotic intervention starting as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. The merit of this approach lies in the possibility to evaluate the effect, if any, on pregnancy outcome,” explained the researchers.
At the end of 24 months of study, the researchers noted that the frequency of gestational diabetes was reduced in the probiotic group (13 per cent), compared to the diet-placebo group (36 per cent) and the control group (34 per cent). In the few women affected by gestational diabetes, the dietary intervention was found to independently diminish the risk of larger birth size in the infants.
In addition, no adverse events were reported, and no effect on the duration of pregnancies were recorded.
“The results of the present study show that probiotic-supplemented perinatal dietary counselling could be a safe and cost-effective tool in addressing the metabolic epidemic,” wrote the researchers. “In view of the fact that birth size is a risk marker for later obesity, the present results are of significance for public health in demonstrating that this risk is modifiable,” they added.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1017/S0007114509993898
"Impact of maternal probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling on pregnancy outcome and prenatal and postnatal growth: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study"
Authors: R. Luoto, K. Laitinen, M. Nermes, E. Isolaur