Synbiotic may be efficient weight-loss strategy above diet and exercise

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Globally, almost 380 million children and adolescents are estimated to be overweight or obese.   Image © kwanchaichaiudom / Getty Images
Globally, almost 380 million children and adolescents are estimated to be overweight or obese. Image © kwanchaichaiudom / Getty Images

Related tags synbiotics Prebiotics Probiotics Gut health microbiome Weight management Obesity

Obese children may benefit from a synbiotic combination of probiotics and a prebiotic, with 12 weeks of supplementation linked to significant decreases in body weight, BMI, and waist size.

Data published in Frontiers in Nutrition​ indicated that 12 weeks of supplementation with a combination of five different probiotic strains plus prebiotics fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and lactulose led to reductions in body weight and BMI of 4% and 5.1%, respectively.

Additionally, the synbiotic was associated with a 6% decrease in waist circumference and a 2.4% decrease in hip circumference, according to scientists from Eskisehir Osmangazi University (Turkey) and the Vrije Unversiteit Brussel (Belgium).

“Twelve-weeks use of synbiotics have some beneficial effects of anthropometric measurements, and these effects might be explained potential effects of synbiotics on microbiota composition,”​ wrote the scientists.

“In childhood obesity, the administration of this specific multistrain synbiotics is an effective weight-loss method in addition to diet and exercise.”

Gut microbiota and obesity

The link between the gut microbiota and obesity was first reported in 2006 by Jeffrey Gordon and his group at Washington University in St. Louis, who found 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. This suggested that obesity has a microbial component (Nature​, Vol. 444, pp. 1022-1023, 1027-1031​).

A 2013 paper in Science​ ​ (Vol. 341, Issue 6150), also led by Prof Gordon, found that transplanting gut bacteria from obese humans into germ-free mice leads to greater weight gain and fat accumulation than mice that were given bacteria from the guts of lean humans. 

The findings showed that weight and fat gain is influenced by communities of microbes in the gut and their effect on the physical and metabolic traits of the host, leading to metabolic changes in the rodents that are associated with obesity in humans.

This has led many research groups to explore if probiotics may help manage weight. A probiotic is defined as a “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”​ – FAO/WHO.

For our recent summary of the state of the science and market around probiotics for weight management, please click HERE​.

Study details

The new randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial was known as the Probesity-2 Trial. Sixty-one obese children were assigned to a standard diet and regimen of increased exercise, and randomly assigned to receive either placebo or the synbiotic for 12 weeks.

The synbiotic was formulated with the following ingredients: Lactobacillus acidophilus​ (430 million CFUs per sachet), Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus​ (430 million CFUs per sachet), Bifidobacteriumbifidum​ (430 million CFUs per sachet), B. longum​ (430 million CFUs per sachet), and Enterococcus faecium​ (820 million CFUs per sachet) plus 625 mg of the prebiotic FOS 625 mg and 400 mg of lactulose.

Twelve weeks of supplementation led to significant improvements in a range of anthropometric parameters in obese children and adolescents, compared to placebo.

On the other hand, no differences between the groups were recorded for glucose metabolism, lipid parameters, or the presence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which the researchers noted may be linked to the study’s relatively short duration, as other studies have reported benefits of probiotic supplementation on these measures.

Commenting on the potential mechanism(s) of action, the researchers noted that the link between the microbiome and obesity is complicated and numerous hypotheses have been proposed, including a “reduction of inflammation, strengthening of the intestinal epithelial barrier, prevention of bacterial translocation, modulation of intestinal enzyme activity, effects on neuroendocrine and immunological functions, inhibition of energy storage and food intake, reduction of dietary cholesterol absorption, prevention of bile acid reabsorption in the small intestines, and reduction of intestinal inflammation are some of the benefits”​.

“The supplementation of this synbiotic is an efficient weight-loss strategy above diet and exercise in pediatric obesity,” ​they concluded.

Source:Frontiers in Nutrition
Published online, doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.898037
“Effects of Multispecies Synbiotic Supplementation on Anthropometric Measurements, Glucose and Lipid Parameters in Children With Exogenous Obesity: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial (Probesity-2 Trial)”
Authors: G. Kilic Yildirim et al.


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