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08 May 2012
Apparently so, if you’re a mouse. Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) devised a study to better understand the effects that probiotics may have in weight loss and obesity. A previous study published by the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that probiotic yoghurt helped to prevent age-related weight gain.
The M.I.T team wanted to replicate this study in mice, so took 40 male mice and 40 female mice and fed the animals either a high-fat, low-fiber, low-nutrient diet; designed to replicate junk food, or standard mouse meals. They then supplemented half of each group with probiotic yoghurt. The initial aim was to understand how probiotic supplementation can affect weight gain and its associated illnesses. However, the researchers chanced upon some very different results in their research. “The most entertaining aspects of all of this were things we didn’t anticipate.” commented Susan Erdman, lead researcher and cancer biologist.
First of all, the scientists noticed that the probiotic supplemented mice had shinier coats. Using microscopic analysis and cosmetic rating scales the researchers showed that these mice had 10 times more active follicle density, resulting in shinier, silkier fur. This is particularly interesting when we reflect back to Channel 4's 'The Food Hospital' last year when a young woman with alopecia was given probiotics.
The researchers then noticed that the male mice, supplemented with probiotic yoghurt, projected their testes outward much more than other mice which endowed them with what the researchers describe as a “mouse swagger”. On closer analysis, the research team found that the probiotic supplemented group had 5% heavier testicles than those fed a normal mouse diet and this increased to 15% in comparison to the mice fed on a junk food diet. As a consequence, in mating experiments it was shown that the probiotic group inseminated their partners faster and produced more offspring than other mice. This was true of the probiotic fed females too, as they were shown to give birth to larger litters and weaned their young with greater success.
The researchers believe that the probiotic supplementation helped to make the mice leaner and healthier which indirectly improved their sexual machismo. These results in mice could also have implications in human fertility too. Studies into probiotic intake and semen quality in human males are currently ongoing, but researchers have commented, “So far our preliminary findings are consistent with what they see in the mice.”