New NZ study to explore impact of Fonterra's probiotic strain on pre-diabetics

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

At present, 25% of New Zealanders have slightly higher than normal levels of blood sugar, making them pre-diabetic. ©iStock
At present, 25% of New Zealanders have slightly higher than normal levels of blood sugar, making them pre-diabetic. ©iStock

Related tags: Gestational diabetes, Blood sugar

A new study is aiming to find out if Fonterra's probiotic Lactobacillus ​rhamnosus HN001 can help to prevent diabetes in pre-diabetic individuals.

Conducted by Food4Health, which comprises researchers from New Zealand's University of Otago, and Capital and Coast District Health Board, the year-long study will involve participants living in the greater Wellington region, aged between 18 and 70.

It will entail participants taking either probiotic capsules or a placebo, as well as an oat- or corn-based cereal daily for the first six months.

They will then stop this diet for the next six months, after which they will have their blood sugar, cholesterol and fat levels, blood pressure, and weight assessed.

The study will be led by University of Otago Associate Professor Jeremy Krebs, and the Wellington Asthma Research Group's director of research, Prof. Julian Crane, and will be funded by the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge, the Ministry of Health, and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

At present, 25% of New Zealanders have slightly higher than normal levels of blood sugar, making them pre-diabetic.

Recent research has drawn a link between gut health and other health conditions, including diabetes, leading to further exploration into how probiotics may be able to help prevent or treat diabetes, as well as to aid in weight loss and lowering blood pressure.

Probiotic track record

In an RCT-based study published last year, the same probiotic was reported to aid in lowering the risk of gestational diabetes in expectant mothers.

The study assessed 423 women randomised into two groups, one given a placebo and the other given the probiotic.

It was observed that in the probiotic group, the prevalence of gestational diabetes was significantly lower than in the placebo group.

Furthermore, those in the probiotic group who had previously been diagnosed with gestational diabetes did not experience any recurrence of the condition after treatment.

The researchers also took into account the probiotic's susceptibility to certain antibiotics and as such, examined its impact on gestational diabetes in those who had taken antibiotics in the period between study enrolment and the oral glucose tolerance test (GTT).

They found that the probiotic's effect on gestational diabetes was "significantly protective among participants who had not used antibiotics between study enrolment and the GTT test, but there was no significant effect of HN001 for those who had used antibiotics during this period"​.

They added that participants in the probiotic group who had not used antibiotics displayed markedly lower fasting mean blood glucose levels than those in the placebo group.

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