Next big thing in weight loss foods?

Posted by Josette Dunn on 21st April 2010

A new study has found that certain probiotics can improve metabolic syndrome and counteract the adverse effects of a high-fat diet, by reducing tissue inflammation and metabolic endotoxaemia.


The landmark study was carried out by the team of Professor Remy Burcelin, an internationally renowned expert of glucose metabolism and Research Director at the National Institute of Health & Medical Research (INSERM) in Toulouse, France, in collaboration with Danisco Health & Nutrition Research Centre in Kantvik, Finland. Professor Burcelin presented the details of the new study for the first time in the Keystone Symposium on Diabetes held on 16 April 2010 in Whistler, Canada.

‘The recent discovery by our group that patients feeding a fat-enriched diet develop diabetes and obesity through changes of their intestinal microflora has led us to envision innovative strategies aiming to hamper the development of the deleterious intestinal bacterial ecology observed during metabolic diseases,’ said Professor Burcelin of the study.

‘The new screening tests have revealed that Bifidobacterium lactis B420, in comparison with other probiotic strains, has the potential to reduce the adverse effects associated with high-fat diets and alleviate metabolic diseases,’ says Dr Sampo Lahtinen, Senior Scientist and Platform Manager at Danisco’s Health and Nutrition Research Centre in Kantvik.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) – also known as syndrome X – is a condition characterised by elevated waist circumference, elevated tri-glycerides, reduced HDL-cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and elevated glycaemic profiles. This syndrome is typically associated with being overweight or obese and also relates to conditions leading to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The action of Bifidobacterium lactis 420

The selected probiotic strain, Bifidobacterium lactis B420, is a naturally occurring strain, isolated from dairy products and currently used in fresh fermented dairy products to provide a mild taste. In parallel, the strain has been studied by Danisco’s Research Group over a period of many years, mainly focusing on its anti-inflammatory properties.

In a series of experiments with mice on a high-fat diet, the researchers showed that administration of the probiotic strain B420 to diabetic mice improved the fasting glycaemia and restored the glucose turnover rate to the level of the control mice fed with normal chow. B420 changes intestinal mucosal microbiota and leads to reduced inflammation and improved insulin metabolism.

Next big weight loss food?

Danisco is now investing further in research into the effects of probiotics to reduce metabolic syndrome. ‘This is an interesting new research area which may open up new opportunities for functional foods in the future,’ says Dr Julian Stowell, responsible for Scientific Affairs for Danisco’s Health and Nutrition Platform.

This study by Danisco is not the first to highlight the weight loss potential of probiotics.  Another study, conducted in Finland has indicated that Probiotics taken during pregnancy may reduce obesity in mother and child.

With the explosion of products onto the weight loss market in recent years, these probiotics may be the ‘next big thing’ for food manufacturers to add to their products to tempt the diet conscious consumer.

What the experts say

Leading Australian weight loss doctor, Dr. Leon Massage of the Body Metabolism Institute made these comments: “There is no doubt that Metabolic Syndrome is a major problem in our community that predisposes people to many chronic inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, it is always good news when we see some research that indicates one further mechanism that may be used to modify the impact of metabolic syndrome on glucose metabolism and on the individual.

“However, it is always of the utmost importance to temper our advice about a new magic bullet that will solve a very complex problem. Metabolic Syndrome has many facets. It is related to central obesity, hypertension, cholesterol disturbance, as well as problems with glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. It would be over-simplistic to believe that the use of probiotics, in itself, would be the total solution to the problem.

“The answer to addressing the problem of Metabolic Syndrome is much more complex. It must include multiple treatment modules; these would include: addressing lifestyle factors such as weight reduction, decreasing the intake of highly processed and high glycemic index carbohydrates, increasing activity and exercise, and decreasing cholesterol and saturated fat intake.

“The research results re the use of probiotics may be of interest and look promising, but they are certainly not the total solution and should not be recommended as such.”