Probiotics could benefit metabolic syndrome, Danisco study

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Metabolic syndrome, Insulin, Nutrition, Obesity

A new study by Danisco indicates that probiotics could help improve the metabolic syndrome by counteracting the adverse effects of a high-fat diet.

According to the unpublished findings, which were presented last week at the Keystone Symposium on Diabetes in Canada, the benefit is the result of a reduction in tissue inflammation and metabolic endotaxaemia.

“The new screening tests have revealed that Bifidobacterium lactis B420, in comparison with other probiotic strains, has the potential to reduce the adverse effects associated with high-fat diets and alleviate metabolic diseases,”​ said Dr Sampo Lahtinen, senior scientist at Danisco’s Health and Nutrition Research Centre in Kantvik, Finland.

The study, carried out at the National Institute of Health & Medical Research (INSERM) in Toulouse, France, in collaboration with Danisco’s research centre in Kantvik, adds weight to the emerging evidence that gut microflora may have an impact on human obesity.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Gut microflora and metabolic syndrome

“The recent discovery by our group that patients feeding a fat-enriched diet develop diabetes and obesity through changes of their intestinal microflora has led us to envision innovative strategies aiming to hamper the development of the deleterious intestinal bacterial ecology observed during metabolic diseases,”​ said Professor Remy Burcelin of INSERM, who led the study.

The current study involved administering the probiotic strain B420 to diabetic mice on a high-fat diet. According to the researchers, the probiotic improved the fasting glycaemia and restored the glucose turnover rate to the level of the control mice fed with normal chow.

“Importantly, the probiotic treatment reduced the fasted insulin levels, but improved the insulin secretion upon glucose challenge, indicating an improved metabolic flexibility and restoration of normal glucose metabolism, and a potential beneficial effect on metabolic syndrome,”​ said Danisco.

The company added that the beneficial effect of B420 is mediated by a reduction of the pro-inflammatory molecule, plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS). “B420 changes intestinal mucosal microbiota and reduces the efflux of LPS into plasma, thereby reducing inflammation and improving insulin metabolism,” ​it said.

Probiotics and obesity

A breakthrough paper published in Nature​ in December 2006 reported that microbial populations in the gut are different between obese and lean people, and that when the obese people lost weight their microflora reverted back to that observed in a lean person, suggesting that obesity may have a microbial component.

More findings on the topic have since trickled through the scientific web. At a scientific symposium organised by the Beneo Group in April 2008, Dr. Kieran Touhy from the University of Reading noted that obese animals have significantly lower bifidobacteria levels than their lean counterparts, which suggests potential for prebiotic fibres since the growth of these bacteria is selectively promoted by inulin and fructooligosaccharides.

Dr. Nathalie Delzenne from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and Dr. Robert Welch from the University of Ulster presented results from animal and human studies, respectively, which indicated the potential of prebiotic supplementation to regulated food intake.

Danisco, which could not confirm when the current study would be published, said it is investing in more research into the effects of probiotics to reduce metabolic syndrome.

“This is an interesting new research area which may open up new opportunities for functional foods in the future,”​ said Dr Julian Stowell, head of scientific affairs for Danisco’s Health and Nutrition Platform.

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