Do Probiotics Help Inflammation & Obesity?

Kathy Wheddon Nutritional Therapist DipION

International scientists working in Gothenburg, Sweden have been researching whether the type of fat that we eat has an impact on our gut microflora (see Probiotics Learning Lab for more glossary terms), and whether the resulting changes to gut microflora could have a knock on effect to our metabolism and weight.

Measuring tape around waist

Research on mice suggests that our gut microflora has an impact on our weight

The research, which was performed on mice, took gut bacteria from two groups of rodents that had been fed on either a diet rich in healthy fats (from fish oil) or unhealthy fats (from lard). There were notable differences in the gut microflora of each group, with the mice that were fed on lard showing increased numbers of bacteria from the Bilophila genus, whereas the animals fed on fish oils showed increased populations of Akkermansia muciniphilaAkkermansia muciniphalia is associated with the maintenance of a healthy weight and enhanced glucose metabolism in both mice and humans. We have mentioned this species before in an earlier blog post concerning gut microflora and obesity: Certain type of bacteria found to aid weight loss

In the second phase of the experiment, the scientists took samples of gut bacteria from each group of mice, and transferred that bacteria directly into the intestines of the other group of mice. So the mice in the lard fed group were given gut bacteria from the fish oil fed mice, and vice versa. This yielded the same results, with the group that were given the bacteria from the fish oil fed mice developing colonies of the same strains of bacteria as the actual fish oil fed mice.

This led the scientists to conclude that the impact that different dietary fats have on the microbiome is potentially responsible for some of the favourable effects of fish oils, and the detrimental effects of lard. Before now it was thought that the fats themselves either boost or hinder metabolism causing weight gain and inflammation, but perhaps it is more the case that the fats alter our microbiome, which then in turn cause these metabolic changes.

To read more about the microbiome and its impact on our weight, you may like to read Jacob's earlier article: Does the bacteria of our gut influence our body weight?

Unfortunately, there are currently no probiotic supplements containing Akkermansia municiphila on the market. As soon as there is a formula available specifically to target weight loss then I am sure that it will be an instant best seller, but in the meantime I can only suggest that we all increase the levels of prebiotic fibre either from dietary sources, or from supplements. These fibres encourage the proliferation of Akkermansia municiphila along with many other beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut, thus exposing us to their potential 'slimming' properties.