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08 May 2014
New research has revealed the potential for live cultures to help regulate weight gain, cholesterol levels and even diabetes. A group of scientists, based at the University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, have discovered that a protein commonly produced by gut microbiota can break down bile acids. The researchers found that high levels of the protein hydrolase helped to reduce cholesterol and weight gain in mice.
This recent research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, found that the hydrolase protein changes the chemical properties of bile acids in the gut, which influence metabolism and cholesterol production.
"We reasoned that in the gastrointestinal tract that if bacteria influence bile acids, they might have an influence on the host's [mouse] weight gain and metabolism," commented Dr Gahan, one of the lead researchers of the study.
"So we went about looking at it experimentally and we basically showed if bacteria can break down bile acids then it influences weight gain in mice."
Further research will be necessary to ascertain whether the same outcome will occur in humans, but the researchers are hopeful. "We now have the potential for matching probiotic strains with specific end-user needs. Work is under way to determine how this system operates in humans."
Similar research in China has also reported that the composition of the gut microbiota (see the Probiotics Learning Lab for further information) may have a direct impact on calorie consumption, and altering the gut microbiota can be more effective in weight loss than cutting calorie intake alone.
Read more about gut microbiota and weight.
Reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - www.pnas.org